Oil prices caught between trade war pressure and risk



April 6 (UPI) — Crude oil prices lost ground early Friday because of lingering trade war fears and U.S. jobs data, but were balanced by concerns about geopolitical risk.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to double down on trade pressures against China in a volley between the two largest economies in the world that could erupt into an all-out trade war. This week, the U.S. Trade Representative announced a proposed list of Chinese goods that could be targeted by tariffs in a move valued at an estimated $50 billion

Late Thursday, the White House said the Trade Representative was directed to examine another $100 billion worth of tariffs.

“Instead of addressing its misconduct, China has retaliated against American farmers and manufacturers,” the White House countered.

Trade war fears have added volatility to a stock market already responding to Trump’s feed on Twitter. The risk is now spilling over into the commodities markets. Dow futures are pointing to a down day on Wall Street.

The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.12 percent as of 9:15 a.m. EST to $68.25 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.42 percent to $63.27 per barrel.

The broader market pressure was dampened somewhat by a report from Swiss investment bank UBS that found geopolitical risk was a driving factor behind the price of oil. In a report emailed to UPI, analysts there raised their 12-month forecast for the price of Brent from $57 per barrel to $62 per barrel.

“The likely overtightening of the crude oil market by OPEC and its allies and geopolitical risks linked to Iranian and Venezuelan crude oil supply shift oil’s price risks to the upside, in our view,” the report read.

Iran may be faced with sanctions pressures next month and Venezuela’s political issues are creating problems in its oil sector.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is working to balance the gap between supply and demand with coordinated production cuts, a move that helped pull oil from below $30 per barrel two years ago.

A report from the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies found the OPEC strategy could be complicated by future demand scenarios, however.

“The risks of potential ‘trade wars’ and the potential negative impact on the global economy and on oil demand if these risks do materialize should constitute a serious concern for OPEC,” the report read.

In the U.S. economy, meanwhile, the Labor Department reported employers added 103,000 names to their payrolls in March. That’s far lower than the February increase in total non-farm payrolls of 313,000.

The price of oil will be influenced later in the day when Baker Hughes publishes weekly data on exploration and production. Posted as rig counts, gains or losses would have an inverse relationship on the price of oil.



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