Oil slips as dollar gains, demand shows signs of weakening

Brent crude futures were down while the dollar strengthened.— Reuters pic
Brent crude futures were down while the dollar strengthened.— Reuters pic

NEW YORK, May 16 — Oil prices slipped today, as a strengthening dollar overshadowed a US crude inventory report that showed domestic crude stocks falling more than expected.

Brent crude futures were down 31 cents at US$77.43 a barrel by 11:17 a.m. EDT (1517 GMT), while US crude futures fell 30 cents to US$71.01 a barrel.

The dollar firmed to nearly a five-month high against a basket of other major currencies on Wednesday. A stronger greenback makes it more expensive to buy dollar-denominated commodities like oil.

“The only reason why we’re not seeing higher prices from here today is the strength of the US dollar,” said Tariq Zahir, managing member at Tyche Capital Advisors.

US crude stocks fell last week as exports hit a new one-week record, while inventories of both gasoline and distillates fell, the Energy Information Administration said.

Crude inventories fell by 1.4 million barrels in the week to May 11, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 763,000 barrels.

 “All in all, the report is bullish. Oil stocks fell across the board and in some cases more than expected, whilst rising exports point to healthy demand for US crude,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said.

Physical crude markets are sagging under the weight of unsold barrels of oil, while the 50 percent rise in oil prices in the last year is encouraging major companies such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total to increase output.

Spot crude oil cargo prices are at their steepest discounts to futures prices in years as sellers struggle to find buyers for West African, Russian and Kazakh cargoes, while pipeline bottlenecks trap supply in West Texas and Canada.

The International Energy Agency on Wednesday warned global demand is likely to moderate this year, as the price of crude nears US$80 a barrel and many key importing nations no longer offer consumers generous fuel subsidies.

In its monthly report, the Paris-based IEA cut its forecast for global demand growth in 2018 to 1.4 million barrels per day, from a previous estimate of 1.5 million bpd.

“On balance, the report is tending more to the negative side. Demand for oil has been revised downwards for the second half of the year from April,” PVM Oil Associates strategist Tamas Varga said. — Reuters

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