Brent oil slips while WTI futures jump on fall in US stocks

London — Oil prices moved in opposite directions on Thursday, with Brent easing but holding above $60 a barrel while a sharp fall in US inventories last week boosted WTI futures.

Brent crude was down nine US cents at $60.40 a barrel by 9.19am GMT while West Texas Intermediate crude was up 29c at $56.07 a barrel.

“If the American Petroleum Institute (API) unexpectedly supplied bullets to oil bulls on Tuesday evening so that they could fire from all cylinders, the EIA flung the door of the ammunition depot wide open yesterday,” Tamas Varga of oil brokerage PVM said.

The US government’s Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday that US crude stocks dropped last week by 10-million barrels, while petrol and distillate stocks each fell by 2.1-million barrels.

On Tuesday, industry body API said US crude stocks had fallen by 11.1-million barrels last week.

US weekly crude production rose 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a new record at 12.5-million bpd in the week to August 23, the EIA said.

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

“Trade tension (is) hanging like a dark cloud threatening to rain over oil prices,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda.

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that China and the US were discussing the next round of face-to-face trade talks scheduled for September, but hopes for progress hinged on whether Washington could create favourable conditions.

San Francisco Federal Reserve president Mary Daly said she was in a “watch and see” mode as she assessed the need for another US interest-rate cut for an economy that has “strong” momentum but faces headwinds from uncertainty and a global slowdown.

Concerns about the global economy have watered down the impact of oil production cuts that Opec, Russia and other producers have been exercising over the past two-and-a-half years.

“When [Opec and its allies]really managed to accelerate the price from late 2016 onwards they had a big tailwind of global growth acceleration; now they have this big, negative headwind of global growth de-acceleration,” (sic) said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at Nordic bank SEB.

Morgan Stanley has lowered its oil price forecasts for the rest of the year, citing a weaker economic outlook, faltering demand and higher shale oil output.