Oil rebounds, but headed for weekly loss

22 February 2013, Sweetcrude, London – Brent crude rebounded above $114 a barrel on Friday but appears headed for its largest weekly loss since early December.

This came as investors focused on a debate in the US on when it would pull a plug on its stimulus programme.

Brent fell nearly 2% on Thursday, its steepest drop since November, during a two-day rout fuelled by worries that the US Federal Reserve could wind down its bond buying programme earlier than expected and that Saudi Arabia could raise its oil output.

Weak economic data out of the United States and the euro zone added to concerns that the global economy is still struggling.

Brent crude for April rose 57 cents to $114.10 a barrel early on Friday while US crude was at $93.32, up 48 cents, after hitting a six-week low in the previous session.

“It’s unlikely that the Fed would begin to wind down its QE programme until the US economic growth is improving at a faster rate than currently,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Global Markets in Sydney.

The debate on whether the Fed should tighten its monetary policy continued on Thursday although economic data is still pointing to a tepid recovery, supporting the case for the Fed to maintain its bond-buying programme.

The Fed’s asset purchases have resulted in a flood of liquidity that has fed a bid for riskier assets such as oil amid a climate of ultra-low interest rates.

Investors will also watch the US budget debate as President Barack Obama called Republican leaders on Thursday to resume negotiations.

“We still think Brent is toppish and we’re not uber optimistic about the US economy,” said Jeremy Friesen, a commodities strategist at Societe Generale. “Maybe the market still doesn’t appreciate the risk in the March sequester.”

The sequester refers to spending cuts across the US government that will take effect on 1 March that could hurt its economy and lead to job losses if the White House and Republicans cannot agree on how to deal with the budget crisis.

US oil data released on Thursday were mostly bearish. Oil demand had fallen by almost 2% in January from a year earlier, the American Petroleum Institute said. Crude oil stockpiles rose more than expected to 4.14 million barrels last week, the highest level since July last year.

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