U.S. crude oil prices dipped below $100 on May 10 to its lowest in two weeks as demand outlook was pressured by coronavirus lockdowns in China and growing recession risks, while a strong dollar made crude more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
WTI crude in the U.S. fell $3.25, or 3.13%, to $99.85/bbl. Brent crude was down $3.3, or 3.12%, at $102.62/bbl by 12:35 p.m. EDT (1635 GMT).
Wall Street’s main indexes also turned lower in volatile trading on concerns over aggressive monetary tightening and slowing economic growth.
Early in the session, comments from the Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) energy ministers boosted Brent and WTI up by over $1/bbl.
“These are volatile times, the daily price bars are outsized these days,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC.
“As the EU continues to dither over whether or not they are going to embargo that Russian oil, that changes the calculus very much as well in both directions,” he added.
The EU Commission has delayed acting on the proposal. Unanimity is required to ban oil imports from Russia, and while a French Minister said EU members could reach a deal this week, Hungary has dug in its heels opposing an embargo.
Also, some European economies could suffer distress if Russian oil imports were curtailed further. If Russia retaliated by cutting off gas supplies, economies in emerging Europe, central Asia and north Africa might slide back to pre-pandemic levels, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) warned.
In addition to the recent G7 gradual import ban on Russian oil, Japan, which obtained 4% of its oil imports from Russia last year, has agreed to phase out Russian oil purchases. The timing and method have yet to be decided.
“The combination of COVID-related lockdowns in China and worldwide interest rate increases to battle inflation put equity investors on the back foot, strengthened the dollar and significantly raised concerns of economic slowdown,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.
With a steep a fall in demand in China due to the lockdowns and discounted Russian barrels in the market, the country gets to be more selective in the crude oil it buys, Mizuho executive director of energy futures Robert Yawger said.
Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester said raising interest rates in half-point increments "makes perfect sense" for the next couple of Fed meetings, while the European Central Bank should raise interest rates in July, Bundesbank chief Joachim Nagel said.
The dollar held near a two-decade high ahead of a reading on inflation that could hint at the outlook for Federal Reserve policy.
On the supply side, the U.S. Energy Information Administration trimmed its U.S. crude oil production forecast for 2022 and 2023. It now expects output in 2022 to average 11.9 million bbl/d compared with its previous estimate of 12 million bbl/d.
In the U.S., crude, distillates and gasoline inventories likely fell last week, a preliminary Reuters poll of weekly data showed on May 9.
European refiners’ crude and oil products stocks stood at about 1 billion barrels in April, down 10.3% year on year but nearly the same level as in March, Euroilstock data showed. Middle distillate stocks fell by 15.4% on the year in April, and by almost 3% from March, the data showed.
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