Oil prices heading for sharp weekly losses on interest rate, growth worries

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Investing.com– Oil prices drifted lower Friday, and were headed for steep weekly losses as concerns over sticky inflation and high interest rates spurred doubts that demand will remain robust this year. 

At 08:35 ET (12:35 GMT), fell 0.4% to $81.00 a barrel, while fell 0.4% to $76.59 a barrel.

Oil heads for weekly losses as rate jitters weigh 

Both contracts were set to lose around 4% this week, with Brent at its weakest level in two months and WTI at a three-month low. Pressure has come chiefly from concerns over sticky U.S. inflation and the potential for interest rates remaining elevated for a long time.

A string of signals from the Federal Reserve reflected increased anxiety among policymakers that inflation will be slow in reaching the central bank’s 2% annual target – a scenario that is expected to push the central bank into keeping rates high.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs have pushed back when they expect the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates this year, citing comments from central bank officials this week calling for more evidence that inflation in the world’s largest economy is sustainably cooling down to their 2% target.

In a note to clients on Friday, the Goldman Sachs analysts said they now do not expect the Fed to roll out a rate cut until September. They had previously estimated that the reduction — which would be the first since the Fed embarked on a steep run of policy tightening in 2022 — would come in July.

The tool now shows a nearly equal probability of a cut or a hold in September.

OPEC+ meeting in focus for more supply cues 

Markets were now looking to a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+), which is set for the start of June. 

Focus will be largely on whether the cartel will extend voluntary production cuts totalling about 2.2 million barrels per day past an end-June deadline.

These voluntary cuts from the cartel of major producers come on top of earlier reductions of 3.66 million barrels per day that were announced in various steps since late 2022 and which are valid until the end of 2024.

Total pledged cuts therefore currently amount to 5.86 million barrels per day, equal to about 5.7% of daily world demand.

But just how tight markets will be this year remains uncertain, especially as production remained at record highs. 

Some easing tensions in the Middle East also pointed to fewer supply disruptions for crude, while U.S. oil demand is expected to pick up in the coming weeks with the travel-heavy summer season. The Memorial Day weekend holiday usually marks the beginning of the season, with gasoline demand already seen picking up in the world’s biggest fuel consumer. 

(Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)