London — Oil steadied on Thursday as the long-awaited Phase 1 trade deal between the United States and China brought some relief to markets, but gains were capped after the International Energy Agency said it expected oil production to outstrip demand.
Brent was up 11 cents at $64.11 a barrel by 1304 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down by 9 cents at $57.72 a barrel.
Under the so-called Phase 1 deal to call a truce in a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, China committed to buy over $50 billion more of U.S. oil, liquefied natural gas and other energy products over two years.
Trade sources and analysts said China could struggle to meet the target and gains in oil are likely to be limited ahead of more detail on how the commitments will be achieved.
“The interim deal has done the trick for the time being, but we can be sure that as talks about Phase 2 get underway we shall see more twist and turns,” said oil broker PVM’s Tamas Varga.
“To borrow the words from Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during WWI: ‘This is not peace. It is an armistice for a few months’.”
Oil prices are returning to range trading, analysts said, as the threat of conflict between Iran and the U.S. receded further after they traded missile and drone attacks earlier this month.
In a reassuring note to the market, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said surging oil production from non-OPEC countries along with abundant global stocks will help the market weather political shocks such as the U.S.-Iran stand-off.
The IEA also said it expected production to outstrip demand for crude from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) even if members comply fully with a pact with Russia and other non-OPEC allies to curb output.
UBS said in a note “provided Middle East tensions do not intensify and cause production disruptions, Brent should decline toward the bottom of a $60–65 per barrel trading range in 1H20 before recovering to the top of it in the second half of the year”.
Also supporting prices was U.S. official data that showed a much bigger than expected drop in crude oil inventories.
Oil inventories fell by 2.5 million barrels, compared with analyst expectations of a drop of 500,000 barrels, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
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