The Business Times

Oil steady near US$59 as Fed's Powell points to economic growth

Published Mon, Apr 12, 2021 · 07:54 AM

[HONG KONG] Oil was steady near US$59 a barrel in Asian trading after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the US economy was poised for stronger growth, while cautioning that Covid-19 still remains a threat.

Futures in New York climbed 0.3 per cent after dropping 3.5 per cent last week. The economy is at an "inflection point" with stronger growth and hiring ahead thanks to rising vaccinations and powerful policy support, Mr Powell said in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," adding that the principal risk was a spreading virus. That's been highlighted in other regions including parts of Europe, while a second wave in India is overwhelming the health system.

Oil's robust start to the year faltered in mid-March as a resurgence of Covid-19 and renewed restrictions in some regions raised concerns about the outlook for near term fuel demand.

The market is also facing rising supply after the Opec+ alliance agreed to add more barrels from May, although Saudi Arabia's energy minister said the decision to boost output was the right move.

Iran is also a wildcard for the market. Talks between the Opec producer and world powers on resuscitating a 2015 nuclear accord are set to continue this week after an initial round of discussions, described by a senior US official as a good first step but still short of what's necessary for a revival of the deal.

The prompt timespread for Brent was 44 US cents a barrel in backwardation - a bullish market structure where near-dated contracts are more expensive than later-dated ones - compared with 32 US cents a week earlier.

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Fed officials have repeatedly stressed that the US economy continues to need aggressive monetary policy support as it recovers from the pandemic, even as the outlook brightens amid widening vaccinations.

In the UK, some scientists are saying the country could achieve so-called herd immunity as soon as Monday, moving on from the worst of the outbreak.

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