Oil prices settle higher as healthier demand outlook fuels bullish bets By biedexmarkets.com

© Reuters.

biedexmarkets.com — Oil prices settled higher Friday to end the week at nearly two-month highs as healthy U.S. economic growth and signs of Chinese stimulus supported the crude demand outlook, prompting bullish bets on crude.

By 14:30 ET (19:30 GMT), the futures settled 0.8% higher at $78.01 a barrel and the contract dropped 1.4% to $83.62 a barrel.

Demand growth hope from U.S. and China

The crude benchmarks are both still on track for their biggest weekly uptick since October, after data on Thursday showed the expanded more quickly than expected in the fourth quarter, suggesting economic resilience in the world’s largest crude consumer.

Additionally, data released Friday showed that rose by 0.2% as expected in December, a rate that many economists believe could help cool inflation back down to the Federal Reserve’s target, opening up the potential for early rate cuts.

The reading comes just days before the Fed’s first meeting of 2024, where the central bank is widely expected to keep rates at 23-year highs.

Elsewhere, China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, announced a deep cut to bank reserve requirements in a bid to spur growth earlier in the week.

These positive signals from the world’s two largest economies helped spur some hopes that crude demand will strengthen substantially this year, backing up the views of the major oil industry bodies, OPEC and the IEA, which both forecast improving demand in the coming years.

Middle East turmoil persists

Persistent concerns over supply disruptions in the Middle East have also aided oil prices this week. The Israel-Hamas war showed little signs of de escalation, while U.S.-led forces also continued to clash with the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which in turn kept up with its strikes on ships in the Red Sea.

The World Court on Friday ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza, saying it must take measures to improve the humanitarian situation.

Adding to the supply issues, official data from the Energy Information Administration released earlier in the week showed that U.S. crude output fell from a record 13.3 million barrels per day two weeks ago to a five-month low of 12.3 barrels per day last week, with production capabilities hit by severe winter weather in parts of the world’s largest producer.

Baker Hughes rig count rise

Oilfield services firm Baker Hughes Co (NYSE:BKR) reported its weekly U.S. rig count rose to 499 from 497.

It was the third straight week that rig counts remained below 500 and followed disruption to production in recent weeks following a cold snap that halted activity.

U.S. production fell by an estimates 1 million barrels per day to 12.3 million for the week ended Jan. 19, the energy Information Agency reported earlier this week.

(Peter Nurse, Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)

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