Crude Oil Prices Settle Lower on Fears Trade War Could Hurt Demand

Aug 03, 2018

WTI Crude Oil prices settled lower Friday, as concerns about global demand growth in the wake of escalating U.S.-China trade tensions kept a lid on gains overshadowing data showing the number of U.S. rigs drilling for oil fell.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange crude futures for September delivery fell 47 cents to settle at $68.49 a barrel, while on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent fell 0.27% to trade at $73.22 a barrel.

Oilfield services firm Baker Hughes reported on Friday that the number of U.S. oil drilling rigs in operation fell by 2 to 861, pointing to tightening U.S. output.

The drop in rig counts supported data earlier this week showing U.S. crude output fell to 10.9 million barrels a day last week.

Oil prices attempted to pare losses on the back of the upbeat rig count data, but ultimately settled in lower as earlier losses from fears that a trade war between the U.S. and China - one the largest buyers of American crude – would stifle demand.

The weekly loss in U.S. crude prices comes as traders appeared to scale back expectations for steep losses of Iranian crude, while an unexpected rise in U.S. crude stockpiles also weighed on sentiment.

Inventories of U.S. crude rose by 3.803 million barrels for the week ended July 27, confounding expectations for a draw of 2.794 million barrels, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.

Expectations for steep losses of Iranian crude from the market was scaled back somewhat after U.S. President Donald Trump made an offer earlier this week to meet with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at "any time," without restrictions.

Analysts have said the loss of Iranian crude from the market could rise to as much as 1 million barrels per day.