Tuesday, April 10, 2012

OIL FUTURES: Crude Down On China Economy Worries, Iran Talks Hopes


--Worries over slowdown in Chinese economy pressure crude prices
--Iran nuclear talks resumption also pushes oil futures lower
--Analysts expect US crude inventories to have risen last week

By Konstantin Rozhnov

LONDON (Dow Jones)--Oil prices fell Tuesday on disappointing Chinese trade data, hopes that tensions over Iran's disputed nuclear program will ease as the Islamic Republic resumes talks, and in anticipation of another increase in U.S. crude inventories.

At 0954 GMT, the front-month May Brent contract on London's ICE futures exchange was 87 cents, or 0.7%, lower at $121.80 a barrel. The front-month May contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was trading down 55 cents, or 0.5%, at $101.91 per barrel.
China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, reported a wider-than-expected March trade surplus, sparking fears of a slowdown in the economy, which could result in lower demand for oil.
"With Chinese GDP data due out later this week, there are concerns that China is in for a 'hard landing' which could potentially harm global growth and shift the focus on Asia," London Capital Group said in a note.

At the same time, strong Chinese crude oil imports suggest Brent and Nymex crude futures are unlikely to fall below the $120 a barrel mark and the $100 a barrel mark respectively, Commerzbank said.

"China raised prices at the pump for gasoline and diesel in March, improving profitability for the refineries and thus pointing to continued high levels of crude oil imports to the country," the bank said in a note.

Meanwhile, the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran, a leading oil producer, and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, pressures oil prices.

The talks could lead to an oil embargo against Iran being loosened, said Torbjorn Kjus, oil market analyst at DnB NOR

"Traders look to be unwinding earlier supply tightening trades," said London Capital Group.

Weak U.S. payrolls data released last Friday also continue to pressure crude prices, as the numbers weren't priced in due to a holiday in the U.K., said Kjus.

The U.S. is the world's largest oil consumer, and an economic slowdown in the country--as well as in China--could significantly cut global demand for oil.

Later Tuesday, market participants will focus on a U.S. crude inventories survey by the American Petroleum Institute, an industry body. The data are due 2030 GMT.

Six analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expect the inventories to have risen by 1.7 million barrels in the week ended April 6.

At 0954 GMT, the ICE's gasoil contract for April delivery was up $5.75, or 0.6%, at $999.00 per metric ton, while Nymex gasoline for May delivery was 100 points, or 0.3%, lower at $3.2867 per gallon.

-By Konstantin Rozhnov, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 207 842 9956; konstantin.rozhnov@dowjones.com

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