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Oil hits $70 per barrel as China offers soothing words on trade

11 April 2018

Oil prices extended gains on Tuesday, as the trade spat between the United States and China showed signs of getting settled without causing any harm to the global economy.

"Oil prices have been susceptible to the brewing trade tensions between China and the United States...."

In physical oil markets, Opec's number two producer Iraq said on Monday that it was keeping prices for its crude supplies in May steady.

Brent crude futures were up 39 cents on the day at $67.50 a barrel by 0912 GMT.

Platts reported that the recent widening of the spread between Brent and WTI crude benchmarks, combined with spring refinery maintenance in the US Gulf, has helped increased US crude exports to Europe in April, pressuring an already well-supplied sweet crude market, traders said.

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Oil prices have been in a volatile situation for the past few days, due to concerns over a continuous trade dispute between the United States and China, and uncertainty over the supply and demand balance of global oil markets.

Beyond the trade dispute, oil markets are also concerned about the potential of renewed USA sanctions against some significant oil producers.

USA crude inventories fell by 4.6 million barrels last week, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 246,000 barrels, EIA data showed on Wednesday.

Chinese and US officials have also softened their rhetoric over their trade spat, easing worries over the potential for a slowdown in demand for oil. U.S. President Donald Trump promised a "major response" within 24 to 48 hours to an alleged chemical attack in Syria, which he said could be the work of the Syrian government, Iran, Russia or all three.

The American Petroleum Institute will publish storage data later today while the US Energy Information Administration releases its monthly report on US production.

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That was a fraction of the number of cars the US exported to China: 267,000 passenger vehicles worth $9.9 billion. Meanwhile, as Shepp notes, China could "go for the "nuclear option' of dumping its sizable hoard of U.S.

However, soaring US crude production, which has jumped by a quarter since mid-2016 to 10.46 million barrels per day (bpd), is threatening to undermine OPEC's efforts to tighten the market and prop up prices.

The United States late past year overtook top exporter Saudi Arabia as the world's second biggest crude producer.

OPEC and other producers, including Russian Federation, agreed to cut output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in November last year to slash global inventories to the five year-average.

Oil prices are still showing a gain so far this year, thanks to healthy demand and by supply restraint led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which started in 2017 to rein in oversupply and prop up prices.

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Oil hits $70 per barrel as China offers soothing words on trade