Emerging-market troubles take their toll on oil
Singapore — Oil prices dipped on Thursday as emerging-market woes weighed on sentiment, while a deadline neared for a potential new round of US tariffs on another $200bn of Chinese goods.
Looming US sanctions against Iran, however, prevented prices from falling further as they are expected to tighten the market after being implemented from November, traders said.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $68.60 a barrel at 4.24am GMT, down 12c, or 0.2%, from their last settlement.
Brent crude futures fell by 5c, to $77.22 a barrel.
Emerging-market weakness is weighing on global economic growth prospects, with Asian shares on Thursday heading for their sixth consecutive session of losses.
Meanwhile, a public comment period on possible US tariffs on another $200bn of Chinese goods ends on Thursday, with the expectation that US President Donald Trump will impose the additional levies.
"The prospects of increased supplies from Opec and her allies, and weaker demand from China and other emerging markets could weigh further on oil prices going forward, or at least limit the upside potential," said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at futures brokerage Forex.
"This is because of the US dollar’s strength, weighing heavily on emerging-market currencies, including the yuan, which in turn has pushed up the costs of all dollar-denominated commodities," he said.
For now, oil demand remains strong.
US crude stockpiles fell last week as refineries boosted output amid strong consumption, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed on Wednesday.
Crude inventories fell by 1.17-million barrels to 404.5-million barrels in the week to August 31, while refinery crude runs rose by 198,000 barrels a day, the data showed.
Oil cartel Opec said on Wednesday it expected global oil demand to break through 100-million barrels a day for the first time this year.
Meanwhile, there are concerns that US sanctions against Iran, which will target the Opec-member’s oil industry from November, will tighten global supply.
"The Brent forward curve has inverted to backwardation, signalling a tightening market that already feels the effects of declining Iranian exports," US investment bank Jefferies said in a note on Thursday.
Backwardation describes a forward curve in which prices for immediate delivery are higher than those for dispatch later on. This signals tight market conditions as it gives traders an incentive to immediately sell oil instead of putting it into storage.
Front-month Brent crude is currently more than $3 a barrel more expensive than for September 2019.
"The strength of demand is a concern, but we believe supply side risks are more acute and expect that Brent prices will exceed $80 a barrel in the near term," Jefferies said.