US crude dips 4 cents, settling at $61.66, as tight supply offsets trade tensions

Key Points
  • Higher U.S. tariffs kick in on some Chinese goods.
  • US looks to levy new tariffs on more China imports.
  • Sanctions and OPEC cuts curb supply.
Sergei Karpukhin | Reuters

Oil prices were little changed on Friday as tightened global supplies and expectations of rising U.S. refining demand offset trade tensions stoked by a U.S. move to hike tariffs on Chinese goods.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures settled 4 cents lower at $61.66, having earlier hit $62.49. WTI ended the week down about half a percent.

Brent crude oil was up 23 cents at $70.62 a barrel, having touched a peak of $71.23. Brent ended the week slightly lower.

Futures chalked up the weekly losses during volatile week with investors worried over the possibility of a protracted and bitter U.S.-China trade war, despite last-minute efforts to salvage a deal.

Futures Now: Crude oil under pressure from US-China trade tensions
Futures Now: Crude oil under pressure from US-China trade tensions

The United States escalated its tariff war with China on Friday by increasing levies to 25% for $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, but negotiations were set to continue on Friday.

President Donald Trump ordered the tariff increase, saying China "broke the deal" by reneging on previous commitments. He said he would start paperwork for 25% duties on a further $325 billion of Chinese imports, saying he was in no rush for a deal.

Growing trade between the world's two largest oil consumers could affect oil demand. The United States and China together accounted for 34% of global oil consumption in the first quarter of 2019, data from the International Energy Agency shows.

But investors shifted their focus away from trade issues to the impact of Iran sanctions, as well as conflicts in Libya that threatened oil supplies, said Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

"The market continues to show concern about tightness of supply," McGillian said.

RBC's Croft: Rising geopolitical tensions could push oil prices higher
RBC's Croft: Rising geopolitical tensions could push oil prices higher

Investors focused on tightened supplies following OPEC production cuts and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. The market also believes OPEC will extend an output-cut agreement in coming weeks.

"We're close to summer driving season and so far the Saudis and the Russians don't want to raise production, and Iran sanctions are in place," said Dan Flynn, an oil trader and analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. "That's supportive of crude prices."

Washington is seeking to cut Iran's oil exports to zero. The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers last year.

It initially allowed Iran's biggest buyers to continue purchasing oil via waivers for another six months, but those exemptions ended at the beginning of May.