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Oil prices at $76

(Reuters) – Oil hovered near $76 a barrel on Thursday after a three-day price slide as robust euro zone growth data were largely eclipsed by lacklustre macroeconomic data that reinforced doubts on the global fuel demand outlook.

Early in the session, prices rallied after news that euro zone gross domestic product (GDP) grew at its fastest pace in more than three years in the second quarter, boosted by strong performances in Germany and France.

But mixed macroeconomic data out of top oil consumer the United States later doused positive sentiment.

By 10:52 a.m. EDT, U.S. crude prices for September were down 15 cents at $75.59 a barrel after rising more than $1.

ICE Brent crude was down 26 cents at $75.26.

“The whole week has been about poor economic data and today’s releases show that the U.S. consumer is still on the mend,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, commodity strategist at BNP Paribas.

“Retail sales disappointed and if consumer confidence in August managed to come in a notch above expectations…it still remains below the June reading.”

U.S. retail sales rebounded in July but showed hints of lingering economic softness while consumer sentiment appeared to have stabilized in August following a sharp drop the previous month.

But earlier strong European data on Friday has helped set a floor beneath prices at least temporarily, analysts said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said demand for oil would continue to grow slowly in 2011, when world economic expansion is projected to be slightly lower than this year’s, leaving the current supply overhang intact.


Front-month crude was on course for a nearly 6 percent fall for the week, and analysts expected it to stay below the $80 a barrel benchmark.

Oil prices were in a $70-$80 a barrel range, where they have mostly traded since June, barring a brief foray above $80 in August.

“The market is very much in ’08 mode when it was doubting aspects of the recovery. There is an element of suspicion about whether it’s sustainable,” said Barclays Capital oil analyst Amrita Sen.

In the previous session, the number of people filing new jobless claims in the United States unexpectedly rose to its highest level in close to six months, a fresh signal of sluggish economic recovery.

Stocks of oil products in the U.S. including gasoline rose last week even at the height of the summer driving season, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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