Oil. Picture: REUTERS
Oil. Picture: REUTERS

Tokyo — Oil prices fell on Thursday for the first time in three days after San Francisco Federal Reserve president Mary Daly sounded a note of concern about the strength of the US economy.

Brent crude was down 30 cents, or 0.5%, at $60.19 a barrel by 2.02am GMT while US crude was down 15 cents, or 0.3%, at $55.63 a barrel. Oil prices rose around 1.5% in the previous session.

Concerns about a slowdown in economic growth due to the trade war raging between the US and China, along with the potential hit to oil demand, are keeping prices in check.

Daly said on Thursday she believes the US economy has “strong” momentum, but uncertainty and a global growth slowdown are having an impact.

Daly was speaking to reporters after a speech in Wellington, New Zealand and said she was in “watch and see” mode in assessing the need for another US interest-rate cut.

US President Donald Trump said on Monday he believed China was sincere about wanting to reach a trade deal, but concerns arose on Tuesday after China’s foreign ministry declined to confirm a telephone call between the two countries on trade.

“Trade tensions [are] hanging like a dark cloud threatening to rain over oil prices,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda.

The market shrugged off a big drop in US inventories, which fell last week by 10-million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.1-million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

US gasoline stocks fell by 2.1-million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 388,000-barrel drop.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.1-million barrels, versus expectations for a 918,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

The crude draw-down confirms “that Opec supply cuts are effectively working by depleting US reserves”, said Stephen Innes, managing partner at Valour Markets.

Opec, Russia and other producers have been restraining supply for most of the period since January 1 2017. The alliance, known as Opec+, in July renewed the pact until March 2020.

US weekly crude production also rose 200,000 barrels a day to a new record of 12.5-million barrels a day in the week to August 23.