Saturday August 13, 2022

Brent crude hits pre-Ukraine invasion lows on recession talks

By News Desk
August 05, 2022

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Thursday, with Brent touching $93.50 a barrel - the lowest since February 21 before Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent prices soaring - as fears mounted of an economic recession which could sap fuel demand.

Brent crude futures were down $2.88, or 3 percent, at $93.90 a barrel by 1543 GMT, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell $2.37, a 2.6 percent decline, to $88.29.

Brent hit a low of $93.50, the lowest since February 21 while U.S. crude touched its lowest since February 3 at $87.97.

The selling followed an unexpected surge in US crude inventories last week. Gasoline stocks, the proxy for demand, also showed a surprise build as demand slowed, the Energy Information Administration said. The demand outlook remained clouded by increasing worries about an economic slump in the United States and Europe, debt distress in emerging market economies, and a strict zero Covid-19 policy in China, the world's largest oil importer.

"A break below $90 is now a very real possibility which is quite remarkable given how tight the market remains and how little scope there is to relieve that," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London.

"But recession talk is getting louder and should it become reality, it will likely address some of the imbalance." Further pressure followed fears that rising interest rates could slow economic activity and limit demand for fuel. The Bank of England (BoE) raised rates on Thursday and warned about recession risks.

An OPEC+ agreement on Wednesday to raise its output target by just 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) in September, equivalent to 0.1 percent of global demand, was viewed by some analysts as bearish for the market.

OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE are ready to deliver a "significant increase" in oil output should the world face a severe supply crisis this winter, sources familiar with the thinking of the top Gulf exporters said.

"With possibly no gas in Europe this winter, with a potential price cap on Russian oil sales in the New Year, we can’t be throwing every barrel on the market at the moment," one of the sources said. The sources did not quantify any increase, but said Saudi Arabia, the UAE and some other OPEC members possessed around 2.0-2.7 million bpd of spare production capacity. "The only time we can prove we have more spare capacity is when it comes to a long-lasting crisis," the source said, adding that would be when OPEC members would raise output.

That could be as soon as this winter, the sources said, as the political and economic standoff between Russia, a member of OPEC+, and the West over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine show no sign of easing.