Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Oil Hits Seven-week High on Demand Hopes, War Jitters

A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
TT

Oil Hits Seven-week High on Demand Hopes, War Jitters

A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
A pumpjack brings oil to the surface in the Monterey Shale, California, US April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Oil prices hit seven-week highs on Wednesday as summer demand optimism and concerns over escalating conflicts offset an industry report that said US crude inventories unexpectedly rose.

Brent crude futures for August, due to expire on Thursday, were up 20 cents to $85.53 a barrel by 1235 GMT, while the more active September contract gained 21 cents to $84.74.

US West Texas Intermediate crude was up 3 cents to $81.60 per barrel.

"The current snapshot presents an underwhelming picture but there are green shoots that indicate a more optimistic outlook," said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM, Reuters reported.

The Brent price being $8 over the lows hit in early June "shows genuine optimism that the global oil balance will eventually tighten," Varga added.

Both benchmarks, having recovered strongly in the last two weeks, gained more than $1 in the previous session to seven-week peaks after a Ukrainian drone strike led to an oil terminal fire at a major Russian port.

In the Middle East, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned of a possible "all out war" with Lebanon's Hezbollah, even as the US attempted to avoid a broader conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed group.

An escalating war risks supply disruption in the key oil-producing region.

"Any cooling off between both parties seems difficult in the near term, which may keep oil prices well-supported as market participants shrug off pockets of weakness on the economic front, from weaker-than-expected US retail sales to mixed sets of data out of China this week," said Yeap Jun Rong, a market strategist at IG in Singapore.

China data this week showed May industrial output lagged expectations, but retail sales, a gauge of consumption, marked the quickest growth since February.

Meanwhile, US crude stocks rose by 2.264 million barrels in the week ended June 14, market sources said on Tuesday, citing American Petroleum Institute figures. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 2.2 million barrel draw in crude stocks.

However, gasoline inventories fell by 1.077 million barrels, while distillates rose by 538,000 barrels, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Official stocks data from the US Energy Information Administration is due at 1500 GMT.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Oil Holds its Ground as Chinese Demand Concerns Weigh

FILE - Pump jacks extract oil from beneath the ground in North Dakota, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
FILE - Pump jacks extract oil from beneath the ground in North Dakota, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
TT

Oil Holds its Ground as Chinese Demand Concerns Weigh

FILE - Pump jacks extract oil from beneath the ground in North Dakota, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
FILE - Pump jacks extract oil from beneath the ground in North Dakota, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

Oil held its ground on Monday as downward pressure from concern about demand in top importer China offset support from strong demand elsewhere, OPEC+ supply restraint and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.

The reaction of the wider markets to the attempted assassination of former US President Donald Trump was in focus. The US dollar steadied after gains earlier in the session that had weighed on oil, Reuters reported.

Brent crude futures were up 3 cents at $85.06 a barrel by 1326 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate crude gained 7 cents to $82.28.

"Chinese data including refinery runs and crude imports are not supportive," said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo. "But demand growth elsewhere is still healthy."

Crude fell last week after four weeks of gains as hopes of strong US summer demand were countered by concern over demand in China.

Chinese data on Monday added to that concern. The world's second-largest economy grew by 4.7% in the April to June quarter, official figures showed, the slowest growth since the first quarter of 2023.

On Friday separate figures showed China's crude oil imports fell 2.3% in the first half of this year.

However, the volatile situation in the Middle East continues to provide a geopolitical premium for oil, though ample spare capacity held by Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC has limited price support, analysts say.

"Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, including volatile Israel-Hamas clashes and stalled peace talks, could remain a driving factor for oil prices due to concerns over regional stability," said George Pavel, general manager at Capex.com Middle East.

The oil market is also broadly underpinned by supply cuts from the OPEC+ group of producers. Iraq's oil ministry said at the weekend that it will compensate for overproduction since the beginning of 2024.

Market sentiment was supported by a US inflation report for June that came in below expectations, raising hopes for an interest rate reduction, though challenges persisted as China’s crude imports in June declined, highlighting ongoing market difficulties, Pavel added.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is due to speak later in the day, and is likely to be asked for his reaction to last week's subdued inflation reading.

Markets are pricing in a 96% chance the Fed will cut rates in September, up from 72% a week earlier.