US crude ticks up 23 cents to 5-week high, settling at $52.59

Key Points
  • Oil prices inch up, extending a winning streak into a ninth session.
  • The lack of any clear resolution to U.S.-China trade talks and weak Chinese economic data weigh on markets.
  • Government data shows vast stockpiles of gasoline and other fuel in the United States.
Jason Reed | Reuters

Oil prices ticked higher on Thursday, extending a winning streak into a ninth session, with gains capped by the lack of any clear resolution to U.S.-China trade talks and weak Chinese economic data.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures ended Thursday's session up 23 cents at $52.59 per barrel. The modest gain was enough to push WTI to a five-week closing high.

International Brent crude futures were up 30 cents, at $61.74 per barrel around 2:30 p.m.

Both benchmarks rose by around 5 percent the previous day, capping off a week-long climb that marked oil's longest sustained rise since last summer.

Global financial markets had surged on hopes that Washington and Beijing may soon end their dispute and avert an all-out trade war between the two biggest economies.

Paul Sankey on oil's rebound
Paul Sankey on oil's rebound

But the rise in global markets began to dwindle after the two sides issued vaguely positive statements that lacked concrete details.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters the countries were having "tremendous success" in their discussions, but offered no other details.

Disappointing data from China added to concerns about the global economy. China's producer prices in December rose at their slowest pace in more than two years, a worrying sign of deflationary risks.

"Data out of China, weak inflation and the consummation of China-U.S. talks without any major breakthroughs that we're aware of at this point led to some profit taking after the incredible run we had yesterday," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

The U.S. stock market, which oil futures have tracked closely, was also mostly flat after a four-day rise.

"Today's price movement has been heavily driven by swings in the equities," Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.

Barclays forecast that Brent will remain range bound at $55 to $65 per barrel as inventories build in the coming months, while it expects "the market will return to a balanced state" by the second half of 2019.

U.S. bank Morgan Stanley cut its 2019 oil price forecasts by more than 10 percent on Wednesday, pointing to weakening economic growth expectations and rising oil supply.

Pick energy names you know, says Stacey Gilbert
Pick energy names you know, says Stacey Gilbert

U.S. crude oil production remained at a record 11.7 million barrels per day in the week ended Jan. 4, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

EIA also reported that U.S. crude stocks fell less than anticipated last week, while gasoline and distillate inventories rose far more than expected.

To counter rising U.S. output, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, reached a deal to rein in supply that officially began in January.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said U.S. sanctions against his country were "fully illegal" and Tehran would not comply with them.

The OPEC deal had hung in the balance on concerns that Iran, whose crude exports have been depleted by U.S. sanctions, would receive no exemption and block the agreement.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.