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Oil Holds Above $65 as Easing Trade Tensions Offset Supply Fears

29 March 2018, 01:53 | Melanie Burgess

China launches first ever yuan-denominated oil futures contract; posts more than 6% jump

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"We take the view that the contract is viable and adds to the crude oil trading value chain, and is here to stay", said Kevin Tan, executive vice president at Singapore-based brokerage Straits Financial Services. The contract dropped $0.30 on Tuesday.

May Brent crude slipped by 33 cents, or 0.5%, to $70.12 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. The contract scored a weekly jump of 6.4%. An industry report was said to show a 5.32 MMbbl gain in USA crude inventories last week, far higher than the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey before government data later Wednesday. A resurgence in risk appetite has helped lift markets from global equities to commodities after a report the Trump administration is to be urging China to lower tariffs as part of talks to resolve rising trade tensions.

The futures changed hands in the first 25 minutes as China debuted its oil benchmark.

Citing Li Qiang, director of the research center under the Xinhu Futures, the media outlet suggested that the launch of China's own oil futures could be seen as Beijing's attempt to open the country's commodity market to foreign investors.

In dollar-terms, that puts Chinese crude prices significantly below Brent and only slightly above U.S. WTI.

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In the USA, stockpiles were estimated to rise 450,000 barrels last week for the fourth time in five weeks, according to a Bloomberg survey before Energy Information Administration data due Wednesday. Still, fears remain that surging American production could thwart efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to reduce a global oversupply, and investors are keeping a close eye on US inventories.

"As things stand, it is a question of when, not if, the US withdraws from the agreement and fires a fresh sanctions salvo towards the OPEC nation", Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd., wrote about the Iran deal. About 19 foreign brokers had registered to trade the contracts as of last week, the exchange said. "Refinery maintenance is in full swing", causing "big builds in crude-oil stocks and big draws in products", he said. "Analysts will be watching to see how these new factors could affect the success of OPEC's continued output cuts".

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and others began their supply curbs in January 2017.

"First-day trading of new contracts was expected to be active, but it was just a first step for China to gain pricing power", said Huang Lei, an independent commodity futures market analyst.



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