Oil ticks up in tight market but bearish signals remain

  • US crude stocks fall 1.3 mln bbls last week – API data
  • US to sell 15 mln bbls oil from reserves in Dec – official
  • European gas prices fall

LONDON, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Wednesday amid caution as bullish signals like falling US crude stocks in a generally tight market were countered by bearish factors such as uncertain Chinese demand growth, lower gas prices and US stocks releases.

Brent crude futures for December settlement rose 31 cents, or 0.3%, to $90.34 a barrel by 1209 GMT. Earlier in the session, Brent hit a low of $89.32.

US West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery, expiring on Thursday, was at $83.53 a barrel, up 71 cents, or 0.9%. The December contract was at $82.63, up 56 cents, or 0.7%.

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In the previous session, the contracts fell to their lowest in two weeks on reports of US President Joe Biden’s plans to release more barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

British and Dutch wholesale gas prices fell this week on the back of mild weather, full gas storage tanks and plentiful liquefied natural gas tanker arrivals.

“The outlook for European gas prices over the coming months has taken a knock and with it the prospects for gas-to-oil switching,” said PVM analyst Stephen Brennock.

China this week postponed the release of some key economic data, a highly unusual move stoking fears of weak growth.

But there were also some signs of resurgent Chinese oil demand, including private mega refiner Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp (ZPC) and state-run ChemChina receiving further import quotas.

The pending European Union ban on Russian crude and oil products and the output cut from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, of 2 million barrels per day also supported prices.

“With Brent stabilizing around $90 and WTI between $80 and $85, you have to wonder how OPEC+ countries will feel about how the markets are positioned and whether further cuts could be considered,” OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said.

The EU’s sanctions on Russian crude and oil products will take effect in December and February, respectively.

“Prices need to rise above $100 a barrel in the coming months to slow demand growth and restore the supply-demand balance, in our view, given that oil inventories stand at a multi-year low,” said UBS analysts in a note.

In the United States, crude oil stockpiles fell about 1.3 million barrels, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures.

Official data is due at 10:30 am (1430 GMT).

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Additional reporting by Isabel Kua; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and David Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Shadia Nasralla

Thomson Reuters

Writes about the intersection of corporate oil and climate policy. Has reported on politics, economics, migration, nuclear diplomacy and business from Cairo, Vienna and elsewhere.

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