Oil prices tumble more than $4 ahead of potential large U.S. rate hike

LONDON, July 14 – Oil prices fell more than $4 on Thursday as investors focused on the prospect of a 

significant U.S. rate hike later this month could stem inflation but also hit oil demand.

Brent crude futures for September fell by $4.05 to $95.52 a barrel by 1356 GMT and were on track to finish the third session in a row below $100.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery was $91.63 a barrel, down $4.67.

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Both contracts hit lows on Thursday, below the Feb. 23 close, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine, with Brent reaching its lowest since Feb. 21.

Oil prices have tumbled in the past two weeks on recession concerns despite a drop in crude and refined products exports from Russia amid Western sanctions and supply disruption in Libya. read more

“Collateral damage of growing fears of inflation is the strong dollar, which is also bearish for oil prices. Interestingly, physical markets are still strong but the change in sentiment of financial investors is currently the dominant driving force.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve is ramping up its battle with 40-year high inflation with a supersized 100 basis points rate hike this month after a grim inflation report showed price pressures accelerating. The Fed policy meeting scheduled for July 26-27. read more

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.”Focus is now on the demand side of the oil equation. Yesterday’s weekly EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration) report showed sizeable builds in product inventories,” Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates, said.

The Fed rate hike is expected to follow a similar surprise move by the Bank of Canada on Wednesday.

Investors also flocked to the dollar, often seen as a haven asset. The dollar index hit a 20-year high on Wednesday, which makes oil purchases more expensive for non-U.S. buyers.

In Europe, signals were also bearish for demand, with the European Commission cutting its economic growth forecast and raising the expected inflation rate to 7.6%. read more

Worries of COVID-19 curbs in multiple Chinese cities to rein in new cases of a highly infectious subvariant have also kept a lid on oil prices.

China’s daily crude oil imports in June sank to their lowest since July 2018 as refiners anticipated lockdown measures to curb demand, customs data showed on Wednesday.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration also point to slackening demand, with the product supplied slumping to 18.7 million barrels per day, the lowest since June 2021. Crude inventories rose, bolstered by another big release from strategic reserves. read more

U.S. President Joe Biden will fly to Saudi Arabia on Friday, where he will attend a summit of Gulf allies and call for them to pump more oil. 

However, spare capacity at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is running low, with most producers pumping at maximum capacity. It is unclear how much extra Saudi Arabia can bring into the market quickly. read more

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