Oil Stuck Near Two-Month Low on Bleak Short-Term Demand Outlook

Oil was steady after closing at the lowest level since June amid a worsening short-term demand outlook and a further deterioration in the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies.

Futures in London traded near $42 a barrel after closing down 1.5% on Monday. Saudi Aramco reduced pricing for October crude sales as consumption remained stuck below pre-virus levels. Only four of 10 Asian refiners surveyed by Bloomberg said they would betrying to buy more of the kingdom’s crude, in a sign of the tepid demand backdrop in the world’s biggest oil-consuming region.

President Donald Trump said that he intends to curb the U.S. economic relationship with China,threatening to punish any American companies that create jobs overseas and forbid those that do business in China from winning federal contracts. He didn’t say when he would implement the policies but framed the moves as part of a second-term agenda.

A stalling Asian demand recovery, the end of the U.S. summer driving season and more supply from the OPEC+ alliance are adding up to a bleak short-term outlook for oil prices. Brent crude’s three-month timespread is nearing the widest contango — where prompt prices are cheaper than later-dated ones — since late May, an indication that concerns about over-supply are returning.

“The Saudis cutting prices just shows you the demand recovery is not a guarantee,” said Vivek Dhar, a commodities analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “Transportation is still very challenging and transportation fuels account for two-thirds of oil demand.”

Prices
  • Brent for November settlement rose 0.1% to $42.04 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange at 8:37 a.m. in Singapore after dropping 1.5% on Monday to close at the lowest level since June 30
    • The global crude benchmark has lost around 7% so far this month
  • West Texas Intermediate for October delivery fell 1.6% from Sept. 4 to $39.14 on the New York Mercantile Exchange
    • There was no settlement Monday due to a public holiday in the U.S.

China, which has played an outsized role in supporting oil prices this year, won’t likely be able to lend as much of a hand over the next few months. The world’s biggestcrude importer bought less for a second month in August, and its purchases will probablyremain lower as independent refiners run out of quota after a buying spree earlier this year.

Widening contangoes in both Brent and WTI combined with a slump in tanker rates may also be starting to incentivize floating storage.Storing crude at sea has become profitable again for northwest Europe and the Mediterranean, shipbroker and exchange data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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