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Oil prices slip on US-China deal agreement concerns

Tokyo

OIL prices slipped on Tuesday on concerns about economic growth and fuel demand as uncertainty remains about the ability of the United States and China, the world's biggest oil users, to agree a preliminary deal to end their trade war.

Brent crude futures were down 5 cents at US$63.60 at 0725 GMT, after rising 0.4 per cent in the previous session. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 9 cents to US$57.92, having risen 0.4 per cent on Monday.

Top trade negotiators from China and the US held a phone call on Tuesday morning, China's Commerce Ministry said, as the two sides try to hammer out a preliminary "phase one" deal in a trade war that has dragged on for 16 months.

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"Oil traders remain hopeful a trade deal will get signed," said Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader. "Still, the lack of clarity around the tariff rollbacks, which is the key to economic growth and bullish for oil, continues to somewhat cloud sentiment."

China and the United States are "moving closer to agreeing" on a "phase one" trade deal, the Global Times - a tabloid run by the Chinese Communist Party's official People's Daily - reported earlier.

Still, the report noted that Washington and Beijing had not agreed on specifics or the size of rollbacks of tariffs on Chinese goods. Beijing's insistence that Washington roll back the Trump administration's tariffs has been a major sticking point.

On the supply side, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meets on Dec 5 at its headquarters in Vienna, followed by talks with other oil producers, including Russia, that have agreed to reduce output to support prices, a group known as OPEC+.

The broader producer group is widely expected to extend its 1.2-million-barrel-per-day supply cut to the middle of 2020. Analysts at J.P. Morgan expect that OPEC+ may extend the output cuts until the end of 2020, the bank said in a note.

In the US, crude oil stockpiles are expected to have declined by 300,000 barrels last week, according to a Reuters poll of analysts. It would be the first decline in five weeks if confirmed.

The poll was conducted ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, and the Energy Information Administration (EIA). REUTERS