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Oil prices edge lower; inflation data deluge due

Published 26-02-2024, 08:14 am
© Reuters.

Investing.com-- Oil prices fell Monday, extending steep losses from the prior session as markets remained uncertain over demand, especially in the face of likely higher-for-longer U.S. interest rates.

By 09:35 ET (14.35 GMT), the U.S. crude futures traded 0.1% lower at $76.42 a barrel and the Brent contract dropped 0.1% to $80.68 a barrel.

The focus this week will be on a string of key economic readings, as well as more signals from the Federal Reserve on the path of interest rates. 

Concerns over slowing demand, especially after hawkish signals from the Fed, were a key weight on crude prices last week, dragging them about 3% lower on Friday and also wiping out all gains for the week.

Demand concerns largely outweighed signs of continued geopolitical instability in the Middle East, which had offered oil some support earlier in 2024 as markets feared potential supply disruptions. 

Inflation, rate cues on tap 

Inflation data from several major economies are due this week, including Japan, Australia, the eurozone and the U.S.

In the case of the U.S., PCE price index data--the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge--is due later in the week, and is also expected to factor into the central bank’s plans for interest rates later in 2024.

Traders were seen largely pricing out chances of rate cuts in May and June, as a chorus of Fed officials warned that the bank was in no hurry to begin trimming rates.

Comments from several more Fed officials are also on tap later this week.

U.S. GDP, China PMIs awaited 

There is also a second reading on U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product this week, which is expected to reiterate that while economic growth remained ahead of its developed-world peers, it still slowed from the prior quarter. 

But growth is still expected to remain robust enough to keep U.S. interest rates higher for longer.

Purchasing managers index data from China are also due later this week, and should provide more cues on a slowing economic recovery in the country.

But a string of recent stimulus measures, as well as signs of some pick-up in consumer spending drummed up hopes over a sustained economic recovery in the world’s largest oil importer.

Goldman sees rangebound trading 

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) expects a $70-$90 a barrel range in the Brent contract to continue for the foreseeable future as oil price volatility has fallen to pre-Covid lows.

This muted volatility despite the ongoing conflicts in the oil-rich Middle East reflects three main reasons, the influential investment bank said, in a note dated Feb. 25.

Firstly, the geopolitical risk premium remains modest, with only a $2/bbl boost to Brent from Red Sea disruptions and unaffected crude production.

Secondly, the pillars of the OPEC range framework remain in place as elevated spare capacity limits upside price risk, while the OPEC put limits downside risk.

Saudi Arabia’s decision not to increase its capacity and the decline in the elasticity of U.S. supply on shale consolidation suggest that Saudi Arabia has both the will and the means to support prices.

Finally, robust non-OPEC supply growth is likely to nearly keep pace with solid global demand growth.

(Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)

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