Oil inches down as rising Opec output weigh


Brent futures for April delivery settled at US$83.62 a barrel, down 6 cents. US crude settled at US$78.26 a barrel, losing 28 cents. — AP

NEW YORK: Oil prices edged lower on Thursday as US inflation data implied a softening of the world's biggest economy that could weaken crude demand, with rising Opec production also weighing on prices.

Brent futures for April delivery settled at US$83.62 a barrel, down 6 cents. US crude settled at US$78.26 a barrel, losing 28 cents.

The Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, the US personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, showed January inflation in line with economists' expectations, keeping a June interest rate cut on the table.

"The economic data, which is mixed, is helping to argue for interest rate cuts for the Fed, which is supportive of oil demand," said John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital LLC.

"At the same time, those cuts are going to come because the economy is slowing and that impacts oil demand."

Reports on consumer and producer prices earlier in February signalled sticky inflation and a guarded approach from Fed policymakers, which prompted investors to push back expectations of rate cuts to June from March.

Euro zone inflation dipped further this month, strengthening the case for the European Central Bank to start easing interest rates later this year, data from some of the region's biggest economies showed.

High interest rates have served many major Western economies to curb inflation, potentially reducing economic growth and oil demand.

On the supply side, crude inventories in the US, the world's top producer, have risen for a fifth consecutive week, increasing by 4.2 million barrels, official data showed on Wednesday, exceeding forecasts of a 2.7 million-barrel build. .

An extension to voluntary oil output cuts from the Opec+ producer group was also on the table.

"With the demand outlook remaining uncertain, we think Opec will extend the current supply agreement to the end of the second quarter," ANZ analysts said in a note.

A Reuters survey showed the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) pumped 26.42 million barrels per day (bpd) this month, up 90,000 bpd from January, the survey found. Libyan output rose month-on-month by 150,000 bpd.

Meanwhile, global benchmark Brent has hovered comfortably above the $80 mark for three weeks, with the Middle East conflict having only a modest impact on crude flows.

However, the conflict shows few signs of abating, with both Israel and Hamas playing down prospects for a truce in their war in Gaza. Qatari mediators have said the most contentious issues remain unresolved.

President Joe Biden said the US was checking reports of Israeli troops firing on people waiting for food aid in Gaza and that he believed the deadly incident will complicate talks on a ceasefire.

A Reuters survey of 40 economists and analysts forecast an average price of US$81.13 a barrel for the front-month contract this year. — Reuters

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