SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell 1% on Wednesday, weighed down by swelling US inventories and a plunge in global stock markets as China’s government warned of increasing economic headwinds.
International Brent crude oil futures were at US$61.37 (RM254.53) per barrel at 0240 GMT, down 71 cents, or 1.1% from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at US$52.64 per barrel, down 61 cents, or 1.1%, from their last close.
Oil prices were pressured by a weekly report from the American Petroleum Institute (API) that said US crude inventories rose by 5.4 million barrels in the week to Nov 30, to 448 million barrels, in a sign that US oil markets are in a growing glut.
Official US government oil production and inventory data is due later on Wednesday.
More broadly, the slide in US oil followed a tumble in global stock markets on Tuesday, with investors worried about the threat of a widespread economic slowdown.
Key to the global economic outlook will be whether the United States and China can resolve their trade disputes. Washington and Beijing announced a 90-day truce last weekend, during which neither side will further increase punitive import tariffs.
But US President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to place “major tariffs” on Chinese goods imported into the United States if his administration didn’t reach a desirable deal with Beijing.
In an unusual move, China’s state council on Wednesday issued guidance to support employment as the economy slows, saying the country should pay “high attention” to the impact on employment from increasing economic headwinds.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in its 2019 economic outlook, published on Tuesday, that “most major economies are likely to see decelerating activity”, although it added that “a steady stream of monetary and fiscal stimulus measures” was expected to stem the slowdown.
The bank said it expected Brent and WTI prices to average US$70 and US$59 per barrel respectively in 2019.
Brent and WTI have averaged US$72.80 and US$66.10 per barrel so far this year.