Negative US data to deepen oil's losses
Benchmark U.S. crude prices may record their fourth weekly loss as negative economic data hurts fuel demand, according to CNBC's latest market survey of traders, analysts and strategists.
Many poll respondents doubted that the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting this week will help lift prices dramatically because oil markets were now more attuned to bearish supply fundamentals, particularly within the U.S.
The Fed is expected to keep its monetary stimulus program in place when it meets on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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"I don't think the FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] will be as important to oil as it has been in the past," said Phil Flynn, energy analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. "We are seeing a breakdown of the risk-on trade. With booming U.S. production and a lessening of some geo-political risk, WTI [West Texas Intermediate] is moving on its own. Supply and demand of oil, not dollars will start to regain control."
Almost two-thirds of the respondents to CNBC's latest poll of oil market sentiment (13 out of 21) believe prices will continue falling this week, 24 percent (5 out 24) expect gains while 14 percent (3 out of 21) are neutral.
U.S. crude oil ended 74 cents higher at $97.85 a barrel on Friday, but finished the week with a 3 percent loss and its third weekly decline, Reuters reported. Brent crude for December ended 6 cents a barrel lower at $106.93 on Friday, its third day of losses and second weekly decline. Brent ended the week 2.7 percent lower, its biggest weekly decline in one month.
The week's scheduled U.S.economic releases – including September retail sales and the October ISM Manufacturing Index -- are likely to be consistent with a softer economy, dragging U.S. futures further below $100, CNBC poll respondents said.
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"We're continuing to see the U.S. economy show weaker prospects at solving its unemployment issues," said Carl Larry, president of Houston-based consultancy Oil Outlooks and Opinions.
"This past week's jobless claims is another hit which should make the next unemployment report look even worse than the last. For the U.S., oil is dependent on the ebb and flow of the economy and it's demand for fuel."
Traders will continue to monitor the dynamics affecting the price spread between the two crude benchmarks. Signs of growing inventories pushed the Brent/WTI spread to more than $13 a barrel earlier last week - its widest since April. The gap may start to narrow after the startup of pipelines linking the oil supply hub of Cushing,Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast and as refineries return from maintenance.
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"U.S. refinery maintenance should begin to ease which should stop the recent trend of builds in the U.S.DOE (Department of Energy) inventories for crude, so we expect buyers to return," said David Nevin, a London-based broker with XConnect Trading.
"WTI is looking oversold at the moment and a move back to $96.20/$95.80 will again be a buying opportunity," Nevin said.