Oil steady as US crude inventories fall, but trade tensions weigh

SINGAPORE: Oil prices held steady on Friday as a fall in US crude inventories to the lowest levels since 2015 supported the market, although Sino-US trade tensions and economic weakness from emerging markets remained a concern.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $67.93 per barrel at 0654 GMT, up 16 cents from their last settlement.
International Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 8 cents at $76.58 a barrel.
“Oil inventory data released last night showed a larger-than-expected draw in crude inventories,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities. US commercial crude oil inventories fell by 4.3 million barrels to 401.49 million barrels in the week to August 31, the lowest since February 2015, US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed on Thursday.
Despite that, analysts said prices were curbed by a rise in refined product stocks and a relatively weak US peak fuel consumption season this summer, known as the driving season.
Gasoline stocks rose by 1.8 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, climbed by 3.1 million barrels, the EIA data showed.
“US gasoline inventories are now above the top of the 5-year range,” US investment bank Jefferies said in a note on Friday.
“The US summer driving season has proven to be a lackluster one in terms of gasoline demand,” said O’Loughlin at Rivkin Securities. Ongoing emerging market weakness as well as potential new US import tariffs on Chinese goods were also weighing on oil market sentiment. — Reuters