London — Oil prices steadied on Monday as news that China planned to ship large volumes of US crude in August and September countered rising tensions between the two countries and a delay in the review of their trade pact over the weekend.
Brent crude was down three US cents, or 0.1%, to $44.77 a barrel by 8.58zm GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude was up 3c, or 0.1%, to $42.04 a barrel.
The US and China delayed a review of their Phase 1 trade deal initially slated for Saturday, citing scheduling conflicts.
However, in a positive signal, Chinese state-owned oil firms have tentatively booked tankers to transport at least 20-million barrels of US crude for August and September.
Record crude imports from China and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions globally have supported oil prices in recent weeks, although new waves of coronavirus outbreaks in several countries are expected to cool consumption again.
“Clearly the market is not tightening as quickly as initially anticipated. Demand is taking longer than expected to get back to normal levels,” ING Group said.
Investors are also looking for more clues on future supply from a meeting this week of a panel representing ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a group known as Opec+.
The joint ministerial monitoring committee (JMMC) monitors Opec+ production curbs agreed on earlier in 2020. In July, the JMMC recommended that cuts be eased from August 1 to about 7.7-million barrels per day (bpd) from a reduction of 9.7-million bpd since May, in line with an earlier Opec+ agreement.
Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh said “Opec’s performance has been successful because the price of oil has risen from $16 in May to about $45 and has stabilised.”
ANZ estimated that demand had risen eight-million barrels per day (bpd) over the past four months to 88-million bpd — still 13-million bpd below this time in 2019.
In the US, meanwhile, the number of oil and natural gas rigs operating last week remained anchored at a record low for a 15th week, even as higher oil prices prompt some producers to start drilling again.