Oil retreats from 10-month high as stronger dollar dents rally

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Cabinet has approved a plan to establish a single National Petroleum Company.
Cabinet has approved a plan to establish a single National Petroleum Company.
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Oil declined from a 10-month high as the dollar strengthened, taking the steam out of a recent rally, while investors assessed what impact a potential U.S. stimulus package will have on driving fuel demand higher.

Futures in New York slid 0.9% to trade near $53 a barrel as a stronger dollar reduced the appeal of raw materials like oil that are priced in the currency. President-elect Joe Biden will ask Congress for $1.9 trillion to fund immediate relief for the economy that has been pummeled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Crude is still set for the 10th weekly increase in eleven weeks, even after prices climbed into overbought territory. Worsening US-China relations, meanwhile, are back in the spotlight after Washington blacklisted deepwater explorer Cnooc for involvement in the disputed South China Sea.

Covid-19 vaccine breakthroughs and a recent pledge by Saudi Arabia to deepen output cuts has driven oil 50% higher since the end of October. Commodities are showing all the signs of a structural bull market, according to Goldman Sachs, and OPEC said in its monthly report on Thursday that the group was on track to deplete the world’s bloated crude inventories.

A resurgent virus across some regions, however, may cap further price gains. China is seeing rising cases again after largely containing the outbreak, while in Europe, France is extending tighter curfew measures and Germany is considering strengthening its lockdown.

“I think the market will take a bit of a pause to asses where things sit with so much going on,” said Daniel Hynes, a senior commodity strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group in Sydney. “There are plenty of risks at the moment, demand in the shorter term is clearly under pressure.”

Prices

  • West Texas Intermediate for February delivery fell 46 cents to $53.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 2:08 p.m. Singapore time after gaining 1.3% on Thursday.
  • Futures are up 1.7% this week.
  • Brent for March settlement lost 1.1% to $55.80 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange after rising 0.6% in the previous session.
  • Crude futures slid 1.1% to 338.5 yuan a barrel on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange.

Brent’s prompt timespread was 1 cent in backwardation - a bullish market structure where near-dated prices are more expensive than later-dated ones - compared with 7 cents at the start of the week.

Biden’s pandemic package, which includes more than $1 trillion in direct relief spending, comes in at more than double the bipartisan bill approved last month. China, meanwhile, is forecast to report on Monday that its gross domestic product rose 2.1% in 2020 due to its success controlling the virus, the only major economy to have avoided a contraction.

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