From the Field
Oil prices slip as weak US data weighs
LONDON, February 5, 2019 – Oil prices moved lower Tuesday as another bout of weaker-than-expected economic data stateside underlined worries over global demand.
New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 39 cents, or 0.71%, at $54.17 a barrel by 11:22 AM ET (16:22 GMT).
Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., slipped 6 cents, or 0.10%, to $62.45.
According to the Institute of Supply Management, activity in the U.S. economy’s service sector slowed to a five-month low in January, missing consensus estimates and increasing worries of demand on a global scale.
In a separate report from research firm IHS Markit, Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson noted that the rates of economic growth, job creation and inflation signalled by the PMI surveys have cooled since peaks seen last year.
“This possibly reflects some impact from the government shutdown, though scant evidence of such was seen in the anecdotal evidence from the surveys, but also reflects an easing of demand growth, notably from abroad,” Williamson explained.
Adding to the downbeat outlook, data released Monday showed an unexpected fall in new orders for U.S.-made goods in November, with sharp declines in demand for machinery and electrical equipment.
Signs of economic weakness amid unresolved trade tensions between China and the U.S. have put oil bulls in check after a strong start to the year. Crude began 2019 with an 18% surge, clocking the best January in its history.
Although major oil producers led by OPEC have begun reducing output this year in an attempt to rein in the global supply glut, concerns remain that a weakening global economy may drop demand faster than the group can cut production, leaving the market oversupplied.
In other energy trading, gasoline futures rose 0.68% to $1.4420 a gallon by 11:22 AM ET (16:22 GMT), while heating oil edged forward 0.06% to $1.9085 a gallon.
Lastly, natural gas futures traded up 1.35% to $2.696 per million British thermal units.