Oil prices skid amid global stock market slump, swelling U.S. supply

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices fell 1 percent on Wednesday, weighed down by swelling U.S. inventories and a plunge in global stock markets as China’s government warned of increasing economic headwinds.

A pump jack lifts oil out of a well, during a sandstorm in Midland, Texas, U.S., April 13, 2018. Picture taken April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Ann Saphir

International Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were at $61.37 per barrel at 0240 GMT, down 71 cents, or 1.1 percent from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $52.64 per barrel, down 61 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last close.

Oil prices were pressured by a weekly report from the American Petroleum Institute (API) that said U.S. crude inventories rose by 5.4 million barrels in the week to Nov. 30, to 448 million barrels, in a sign that U.S. oil markets are in a growing glut.

Official U.S. government oil production and inventory data is due later on Wednesday.

More broadly, the slide in U.S. oil followed a tumble in global stock markets on Tuesday, with investors worried about the threat of a widespread economic slowdown.

Key to the global economic outlook will be whether the United States and China can resolve their trade disputes. Washington and Beijing announced a 90-day truce last weekend, during which neither side will further increase punitive import tariffs.

But U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to place “major tariffs” on Chinese goods imported into the United States if his administration didn’t reach a desirable deal with Beijing.

In an unusual move, China’s state council on Wednesday issued guidance to support employment as the economy slows, saying the country should pay “high attention” to the impact on employment from increasing economic headwinds.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in its 2019 economic outlook, published on Tuesday, that “most major economies are likely to see decelerating activity”, although it added that “a steady stream of monetary and fiscal stimulus measures” was expected to stem the slowdown.

The bank said it expected Brent and WTI prices to average $70 and $59 per barrel respectively in 2019.

Brent and WTI have averaged $72.80 and $66.10 per barrel so far this year.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford

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