Picture: 123RF/PAN DENIM
Picture: 123RF/PAN DENIM

London — Oil prices were flat on Friday as support from a weaker dollar was offset by tensions between the US and China.

Brent crude was down 1c at $43.30 a barrel by 8.07am GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude up 1c at $41.08.

“Oil ... lost its lustre as demand-side jitters returned to the fore. Not even an ailing dollar could spare bulls’ blushes,” PVM analysts said in a note.

“Both crude benchmarks are roughly back where they were before this week’s upside breakout. Looking ahead, the oil market will likely settle back into a wait-and-see mode amid the increasingly uncertain environment.”

China ordered the US to close its consulate in the city of Chengdu on Friday, responding to a US demand this week that China close its Houston consulate.

The dollar slid to 22-month lows against a basket of currencies.

A weaker dollar usually spurs buying of commodities priced in dollars such as oil because they become cheaper for holders of other currencies.

The US economic outlook has darkened in the past month amid renewed lockdowns in some states from surging coronavirus cases, according to economists in a Reuters poll.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits hit 1.416-million last week, unexpectedly rising for the first time in nearly four months, suggesting the US economic recovery is stalling amid a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. Globally, more than 15-million have been infected and over 620,000 have died.

While the rise in infections has fanned fears of renewed government lockdowns, worries that oil demand could be hit have been exacerbated by tensions between the US and China — the world’s top two oil consumers.

In China, congestion at east coast oil ports is adding to costs for shippers and importers even as fuel demand stalls.

Oil prices could see a near-term correction if a recovery in fuel demand slows further, especially in the US, Barclays Commodities Research said. Still, the bank lowered its oil market surplus forecast for 2020 to an average of 2.5-million barrels per day from 3.5-million previously.


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