Wednesday, March 13 07:29:01
Brent futures eased today as Asian equities lost ground on concerns the recent rally was running out of steam, but expectations of steady global consumption growth and a surprise fall in U.S. stockpiles held the benchmark above $109 a barrel.
Asian shares slipped on the lack of further triggers to keep the rally going that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average close at another record to mark eight days of gains. Yet, a report by OPEC that left unchanged its consumption growth forecast for 2013 supported oil and stemmed further losses.
"Downside risks for oil seem to be very limited," said Tetsu Emori, a commodities fund manager at Astmax Investments in Tokyo. "I think oil prices have bottomed out, and overall, we will see a recovery."
Brent crude slipped 25 cents to $109.40 a barrel by 0646 GMT, after rising to $109.80 earlier in the session. U.S. oil increased 12 cents to $92.66, gaining for a fifth day in the longest daily winning streak since mid-December.
Emori expects Brent to rise to $111 to 112 a barrel in the next few days, with WTI touching $94 to $95.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in a monthly report left its forecast for growth in global oil consumption unchanged for now, still expecting an expansion of 840,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year. But it warned demand growth could miss forecasts due to economic weakness and that growing U.S. supply would hit its highest in three decades.
OPEC, the source of more than a third of the world's oil, expects the U.S. economy to expand by 1.7 percent in 2013, down from the 1.8 percent previously thought. Growth in the euro zone is now seen contracting by 0.2 percent, having earlier been expected to expand slightly.
A similar monthly report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) cut its 2013 world oil demand forecast slightly, but also cut the forecast for non-OPEC output.
"The two reports have focused a lot on Europe and are worried about the negative impact it may have on oil," Emori said. "But if you look at supply disruption worries and equity markets, oil should remain supported," he said, referring to the recent rally in global equities.
Uncertainty over Europe's economic outlook, worries about central banks pulling the plug on easy monetary policy and concerns of an uneven recovery in China have shaved around $10 a barrel off Brent since the high of more than $119 touched by the contract in February.
"For developing Asia, the outlook is less positive, where leading indicators point towards a below trend growth for China and India," JBC Energy said in a report.
Still, positive data out of the United States, subsequent assurances by the U.S. Federal Reserve of continuing with its easy policy, and lingering worries of supply disruption from the Middle East may help push prices higher, Emori said.
Brent remains neutral in a range of $109.14 to $111.33 per barrel, while U.S. oil is expected to test resistance at $93.72, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.
Oil, particularly the U.S. benchmark, was supported by a report from the American Petroleum Institute (API) that showed U.S. crude inventories fell 1.4 million barrels last week. The market had been expecting a rise of 2.3 million barrels, according to a Reuters poll.
During the same week, gasoline inventories also fell 3.1 million and distillates declined 2.2 million barrels, the API said.
Traders will now be watching for weekly stockpile data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, due out today, for further insight into inventories ( C ) Reuters