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Brent slips towards $102

Thursday, September 04 08:53:13

Brent crude slipped towards $102 a barrel on Thursday, reversing some of the sharp overnight gains, as U.S. industry data showed fuel stocks rose last week and raised fresh doubts about the strength of demand in the world's biggest oil consumer.

Oil futures on both sides of the Atlantic have seen wide swings this week, as the U.S. dollar has gyrated. Brent hit a 16-month low on Tuesday, before bouncing back $2.43 yesterday as the prospect of peace talks over Ukraine and strong U.S. economic data raised demand expectations.

Brent crude for October delivery fell 60 cents to $102.17 a barrel by 0653 GMT. U.S. crude was down 69 cents at $94.85 a barrel, after settling $2.66 higher on Wednesday.

"The size of swings in the dollar is a source of volatility for commodities," said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

The U.S. currency rose to a 14-month peak against a basket of currencies this week, but has since come off. A stronger greenback makes it more expensive for importing countries to buy dollar-denominated oil.

"The market is getting serious about adjusting for a tightening of U.S. interest rates, and this process has the ability to take oil prices lower," Spooner said.

"This suggests that against a background of a very well-supplied market and a period of seasonal weakness lower prices are possible."

Oil prices were pulled lower as data from industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) - released after Wednesday's session closed - showed fuel stocks rose last week.

Gasoline stocks rose by 362,000 barrels last week, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.3 million-barrel decline. Distillate fuels stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 385,000 barrels, compared with expectations for a 500,000-barrel drop, the API data showed.

U.S. crude inventories fell only 545,000 barrels to 361 million last week as refinery capacity utilisation fell 0.5 percentage point to 93.2 percent.

The more closely watched update from the government's Energy Information Administration is due at 1500 GMT. It is delayed by one day due to a U.S. holiday last Monday.

In bullish signals for oil demand, new orders for U.S. factory goods posted a record gain in July and auto sales last month accelerated to their highest level in 8-1/2 years.

However, the upbeat U.S. data came amid signs of slowing economic growth in China and Europe, which along with high inventories and weak demand has created a glut of crude in the Atlantic basin and Asia.

"Add in unrelenting upward revisions to U.S. oil supply growth with non-OPEC supply additions continuing to substantially outpace demand growth and you have a combination of factors pointing to lower prices," analysts at PIRA Energy Group said in a note.

Still, geopolitical tension in key oil producing regions such as the Middle East, North Africa and Russia continued to represent potential support for oil prices.

"The market has now stripped out most of the geopolitical risk premium, which makes it vulnerable to sudden changes in the world's hotspots," Spooner of CMC Markets said. (Reuters)

For more visit: www.businessworld.ie