Oil dips as US-China trade dispute expected to stall economic growth

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell on Friday, pulled down by concerns that the escalating trade dispute between the United States and China would stall economic growth and fuel demand.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $ 71.89 per barrel at 0118 GMT, down 18 cents, or 0.25 per cent, from their last close.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 10 cents, or 0.15 per cent, at $ 66.71 per barrel.

Along with oil, Asian stock markets also fell on Friday amid heightened global trade tensions, as the world’s two biggest economies threaten ever more tariffs on each other’s products.

“The market seems to be focused on fears of reduced demand from China, partially due to the effects of the trade wars between China and the United States,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

In the latest round, China said it would impose additional tariffs of 25 per cent on $ 16 billion worth of US imports, which would include refined products, autos and medical equipment.

Crucially to oil markets, however, crude has been dropped off the list.

Kenneth Medlock, senior director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said Beijing’s decision to exclude US crude reflected China’s reliance on imports.

“The issue for the Chinese is that any tariff on US exports (including) oil will likely hurt their economy disproportionately because they have to import,” he said, noting that “US exports will find a home regardless of how the global supply deck is reshuffled.”

US crude oil exports to China, seen as a tool to reduce America’s trade deficit with Asia’s biggest economy, have soared in the last two years and by the middle of this year were worth around $ 1 billion per month.