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Oil price steadies as markets await Fed steer

Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang province, China. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters London, United States Aug 23, 2019, 05.44 PM (IST)

Oil prices steadied on Friday, on track for a weekly gain, with attention focused on a speech by US Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell for news on whether it will cut interest rates for a second time this year to boost the world's largest economy.

Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, fell 8 cents to $59.84 a barrel by 0952 GMT but was up about 2.1 per cent on the week.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped by 3 cents to $55.32, up 0.8per cent this week.

"For now, it all comes down to Powell’s projected bias on Friday. Does he insist on the robustness of the US economy or does he highlight the growing downside risks? Investors’ interpretation of Powell’s policy bias is set to sway markets," said FXTM market analyst Han Tan.

Traders will comb through Powell's speech later on Friday at a meeting of global central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, looking for clues on US rates as economic headwinds strengthen and the US-China trade conflict shows no sign of abating.

"Some have blamed the hesitant tone [for oil prices] on an end-of-summer lull. Yet, in truth, the sense of unease stems from ongoing worries about the global economy," said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

Exacerbating concern over the possibility of a recession, US manufacturing industries registered their first month of contraction in almost a decade.

However, oil production cuts from OPEC members and Russia, as well as reduced exports from Iran and Venezuela because of US sanctions, have continued to support crude prices.

Harry Tchilinguirian, of BNP Paribas, said the market had some bearish data, with a rise in Saudi Arabian oil exports while Russia’s crude output moved above its quota under an OPEC+ agreement and Russian state oil major Rosneft helped to ship Venezuelan oil to China and India.

OPEC, Russia and other producers have, since Jan. 1, implemented a deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day. The alliance, known as OPEC+, renewed the pact in July, extending the curbs to March 2020 to avoid a build-up of inventories that could hit prices.

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday as world powers seek to salvage a 2015 international nuclear deal signed with Tehran.

Iran has said it will scale back compliance with the pact unless the Europeans find a solution enabling Tehran to sell its oil despite U.S. sanctions.

Story highlights

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped by 3 cents to $55.32, up 0.8per cent this week