Oil prices rise, shrugging off weak US growth data, easing geopolitical tensions

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Oil prices rise, shrugging off weak US growth data, easing geopolitical tensions
Credit: © Reuters.

Investing.com-- Oil prices settled higher Thursday, shrugging off demand worries as weaker U.S. growth data and signs of higher inflation dimmed the outlook for rate cuts at a time when Middle East geopolitical are receding. 

At 14:30 ET (18:30 GMT),  West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 1% to $83.59 a barrel,  Brent oil futures rose 1.2% to $89.03 a barrel, while

Both contracts were nursing a sharp tumble from near six-month highs over the past week. 

Weaker US growth, sticky inflation dent rate-cut bets 

U.S. GDP grew by just 1.6% in the first quarter, on an annualised basis, much slower than expected, while a core underlying measure of inflation surprised to upside in Q1, rising 3.7%, pushing out rate-cut bets. 

The data dimmed the outlook on rate cuts, adding further worries slowing growth hurting demand for oil, with swaps traders  no longer fully pricing in a first Fed rate cut before December.

The latest signs of sticky inflation will increase the focus on Friday’s PCE price index data - the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge.

Oil markets digest mixed US inventories

Official U.S. inventory data showed on Wednesday that oil stockpiles shrank by 6.4 million barrels in the week to April 19, a surprise given expectations for a build of 1.6 million barrels. 

But distillate stockpiles saw an unexpected, 1.6 million barrel build, while gasoline inventories shrank by a smaller-than-expected 0.6 million barrels. 

The misses in the products inventory data indicated that U.S. fuel markets remained relatively well-supplied, which, along with record-high production in the country, dented the outlook for tighter oil markets. 

Easing Middle East tensions dent bets on supply disruptions 

Easing Middle East tensions continued to force traders to unwind their bets on supply disruptions in the oil-rich region amid the unlikely prospect of further Iran-Israel escalations.

The US Oil Fund saw the biggest daily outflow ever on Tuesday, with a record outflow of $376 million, dwarfing the $323 million outflow in 2009, Bloomberg data showed.

The outflows are hardly surprising as many analysts had warned that geopolitical tensions had to materialize in a loss of barrels from the market, without which, the geopolitical risk premium that was embedded into prices would unwind.  

While the U.S. and its allies have outlined stricter oil sanctions against Iran, it remains unclear just to what extent that sanctions will be imposed, given that the Biden administration is trying to avoid higher oil and fuel prices ahead of the 2024 Presidential elections. 

(Peter Nurse, Ambar Warrick contributed to this item.)

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