Singapore: Oil steadied below $46 a barrel on Tuesday, pausing after an almost 9-percent fall a day earlier as traders awaited further cues on demand from US economic, corporate and oil inventory data.
The focus is back on the state of the economic recovery in the world’s biggest energy consumer after Bank of America, the top US bank, posted a jump in bad loans, sending equity markets and most commodities down.
Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower, while government bonds jumped as investors moved away from risky assets into traditional safe havens.
US crude for May delivery, which expires later in the day, inched down 6 cents to $45.82 a barrel at 11:37am, after plunging by $4.45 on Monday, while London Brent crude rose 4 cents to $49.90.
“It seems people are trying to sort out the noise in the economic data and profit releases from the United States. They’re still a bit confused if this is the bottom of the market or if we’ve got worse to come,” said Ben Westmore, commodities analyst at National Australia Bank.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, Wall Street’s barometer for fear, jumped more than 15% on Monday, the largest daily percentage gain since 20 January.
Oil has been trading in a tight band between $46 and $55 for the past month, after rallying steadily since mid-February from the mid-$30s, helped by hopes of economy recovery and optimism over Opec’s compliance with agreed supply cuts.
The oil cartel meets again next month, but the International Energy Agency’s deputy Executive Director Richard Jones said he did not expect further cuts from the meeting.
UAE’s Oil Minister Mohamed al-Hamli declined to say if Opec might cut output further at the meeting, but said the market is “certainly well-supplied”.
Traders will also look out for US oil inventory data, with the American Petroleum Institute due to release figures later in the day and the more authoritative US Energy Information Administration’s numbers due out on Wednesday.
US crude oil inventories likely rose for the seventh week in a row last week on higher imports and as seasonal maintenance cut refinery demand, a preliminary Reuters poll showed.
On average, the poll forecast a crude inventories increase of 2.6 million barrels, an 800,000 barrel drawdown in gasoline stocks and a 500,000 barrel decline in distillates.