Oil prices subdued amid cautious trade

LONDON, March 2, 2018 – Crude oil prices remained lower on Friday, hovering near multi-week troughs amid ongoing concerns over U.S. production levels and fresh worries over U.S. protectionist policies.

The U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude April contract was down 52 cents or about 0.89% at $60.44 a barrel by 10:00 a.m. ET (14:00 GMT), re-approaching Thursday’s two-and-a-half week lows of $60.20.

Elsewhere, Brent oil for May delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London slid 49 cents or about 0.77% to $63.38 a barrel, close to a two-week trough of $63.20 in the previous session.

Oil prices weakened after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on Wednesday that crude oil inventories rose by 3.019 million barrels for the week ended Feb. 23, exceeding expectations for a rise of 2.4 million barrels.

 

Fears that rising U.S. output could dampen global efforts to rid the market of excess supplies have systematically limited oil prices’ gains recently.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with some non-OPEC members led by Russia, agreed in December to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018.

The deal to cut oil output by 1.8 million barrels a day (bpd) was adopted last winter by OPEC, Russia and nine other global producers. The agreement was due to end in March 2018, having already been extended once.

Market participants were also digesting news on Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on aluminum, in a move to “protect U.S. industry”.

The move sparked concerns over potential trade wars, which weighed heavily on risk sentiment.

Elsewhere, gasoline futures were down 1.74% at $1.861 a gallon, while natural gas futures climbed 0.48% to $2.711 per million British thermal units.

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