Oil falls on stronger U.S. dollar, China worries; heading for weekly gain

TOKYO/SINGAPORE  – Oil extended losses on Friday, further receding from this week’s 10-month highs, as fears about the health of China’s slowing economy and a stronger U.S. dollar wiped out the gains triggered by supply cuts from major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Brent crude futures dropped 41 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $89.51 a barrel by 0619 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) futures declined 50 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $86.36.

Both benchmarks reached 10-month highs earlier this week on concerns about potential shortages during the peak winter demand season after Saudi Arabia and Russia extended their voluntary supply cuts to the end of the year.

Despite these bullish signals, China’s bumpy recovery, and the strong U.S. dollar, are weighing on prices, said Priyanka Sachdeva, senior market analyst from Phillip Nova.

Investors expect U.S. interest rates to linger at 20-year highs, and that has unleashed the dollar, making it more expensive to buy crude in other currencies.

The U.S. dollar index was just off a six-month peak on Friday.

“Investors took profits after the recent rally which was driven by concerns over tighter supply following extended production cuts in Saudi Arabia and Russia,” said Tatsufumi Okoshi, senior economist at Nomura Securities.

“The market has factored in the news of lower supply and it would need clear signs of stronger global demand, especially in China, to move higher,” he said, noting investors’ consensus is that Beijing’s stimulus has so far failed to boost to its economy.

China’s overall exports and imports fell in August, data showed on Thursday, as the twin pressures of sagging overseas demand and weak consumer spending squeezed businesses in the world’s second-largest economy.

But China’s crude imports surged 30.9 percent last month as refiners built inventories and increased processing to benefit from higher profits from exporting fuel.

A bigger-than-expected draw in U.S. crude oil inventories lent muted support to oil prices.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell for the fourth consecutive week, with inventories down more than 6 percent in the last month, as oil refiners run at high rates to keep up with global energy demand, Energy Information Administration data showed on Thursday.

Crude inventories fell by 6.3 million barrels, triple the 2.1 million-barrel drop that analysts expected.

Despite its pledge to maintain supply cuts, Russia is expected to boost its oil exports in September as Russian refineries start seasonal maintenance, Reuters calculations based on sources’ data show, which is also curbing price gains.

For the week, Brent and WTI were still on track for a nearly 1 percent gain.

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