Oil Prices Fall on Profit-Taking as EIA Data Argument Brews


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Investing.com — Crude oil prices are on track to end the week roughly where they started them after extending Thursday’s losses on a sudden reappraisal of the state of talks between the U.S. and China on trade.

Prices had risen throughout most of the week on hopes that that the two were closing in on a “phase-1” deal that would roll back at least some of the tariffs imposed by both sides on each other’s goods in the last 18 months – a tit-for-tat exchange that has exerted an increasing drag on the world economy.

By 8:30 AM ET (1330 GMT), U.S. crude futures were at $56.20 a barrel, down 95 cents or 1.6% from late Thursday and bumping along near the bottom of their range this week – albeit without threatening much to break out below it.

Brent futures were down 1.8% at $61.18 a barrel.

Prices remain overshadowed by the macro outlook, and by ongoing uncertainty over how quickly and completely the U.S. and China can reverse policies that have weighed on global demand this year.

Despite that, customs data published Friday by China showed that crude imports surged 17% on the year in October to an all-time high 10.76 million barrels a day. Overall in the first 10 months of the year, imports were up 10.5% at an average of 10 million b/d, S&P Global Platts reported.

Elsewhere, controversy continued to swirl about the reliability of the U.S. government’s weekly reports on oil supplies.

The Energy Information Administration’s senior oil market analyst Mason Hamilton forced to defend the EIA’s data on U.S. export and imports, which have appeared out of kilter with other third-party services assessments, due to the fact that shipments only show up in the data once the relevant customs documentation has been processed.

Hamilton urged traders to pay more attention to the four-week rolling average figures for external trade, which are less susceptible to timing-related anomalies.

“The oil market has changed faster than the EIA’s ability to keep up with it,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst with Price Futures Group, in a blog post. “The fact is the EIA has had a more difficult time changing from a world where the U.S. was mainly an oil importer to now a major exporter.

Elsewhere Friday, Gasoline RBOB Futures were down 1.8% at $1.6065 a gallon, while natural gas futures were up 1.3% at $2.808 per 10,000 MMBTu.

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