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Brent steady above $108 on better US, China data

LiveMint logoLiveMint 09-06-2014 Manash Goswami

Singapore: Brent futures held steady above $108 a barrel on Monday as healthy Chinese export data and a solid US jobs report revived hopes of steady growth in oil demand from the world’s top two consumers.

The improved demand outlook is helping to put a floor under oil prices already supported by supply disruption fears amid uncertainties over Libyan exports and the geopolitical crisis over Ukraine. Yet further gains in oil were capped, as China’s crude imports in May fell 9.4% from the month before.

Brent crude gained 8 cents to $108.69 by 11:30am, after settling down 18 cents and declining 0.7% last week. US oil rose 17 cents to $102.83, extending gains after ending 18 cents up and finishing the week unchanged.

“China’s crude imports were lower, but good overall economic data and healthy US data are supporting oil. They are the positives for the market,” said Tetsu Emori, a commodity fund manager at Astmax Investment. “And we have had geopolitical worries that have kept oil supported.”

China’s exports gained steam in May and beat forecasts on firmer global demand, rising 7% from a year earlier and quickening from April’s gain of 0.9%. The strong gains overshadowed the unexpected fall in imports that possibly signals weaker domestic demand.

The Chinese data followed on the heels of solid US numbers that showed employment returned to its pre-recession peak, further confirmation of steady improvement in the world’s top economy. May marked a fourth straight month of job gains above 200,000, a stretch last seen in January 2000.

The US data helped bolster Asian shares to their highest levels in nearly three years, a follow-up to Friday’s record close on Wall Street.

Price outlook

The robust gains, however, may prompt a correction in the equity market, which in turn could hurt oil, Emori said.

“The fundamentals for oil are still good, but any correction in equity markets may see speculative money flowing out of oil as well,” he said.

While chances of a decline in oil are limited, if there is a correction, the US contract would face strong support at $101.50 a barrel, he said. A breach below would see the benchmark face another floor at $100.50. Brent crude will hold about $6 higher than its US counterpart.

China, the world’s largest consumer of energy, imported 26.08 million tonnes, or 6.14 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in May, bringing total shipments in the first five months of this year to 128.7 million tonnes.

China’s crude imports on a daily basis in May were down 9.4% from April’s record high, as refineries cut production during the peak maintenance season.

China’s slackening economy, set to grow at its slowest pace in 23 years, has blunted its oil demand, which dropped to a seven-month low in April, as refineries scaled back production for maintenance and exported surplus fuel.

“Imports so far were more affected by state stockpiling, as China brings a number of new strategic petroleum reserves sites online,” Sijin Cheng, an analyst at Barclays said in a note.

“With the exact schedule of the sites unknown, the pace of imports is likely to remain choppy. Still, we expect an average fill rate of 150,000-250,000 bpd this year as a result of storage filling if the sites are finished on schedule.” Reuters

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