November 20, 2019 / 2:58 AM / 16 days ago

Oil prices steady after two-day drop as growth concerns weigh

SINGAPORE, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Oil prices were steady on Wednesday, after falling the past two days, as a surge in U.S. stockpiles reinforced concerns about lacklustre global economic growth amid the trade war between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest oil consumers.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 11 cents, or 0.2%, to $55.32 a barrel by 0252 GMT, after falling 4.3% during the previous two sessions.

Brent crude futures were at $60.93 a barrel, up 2 cents, or 0.03%. Brent dropped 3.8% during the prior two sessions.

U.S. crude inventories rose 6 million barrels in the week to Nov. 15 to 445.9 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for a increase of 1.5 million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed late on Tuesday.

The increase in inventories in the United States, the world’s biggest oil user, added to concerns about a crude oversupply raised after Reuters reported that Russia, the world’s second-biggest producer, was unlikely to back deepening output cuts when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meet on Dec. 5-6 in Vienna.

Russia and other oil producers have agreed with OPEC to cut 1.2 million barrels per day of output through March to bolster prices, a producer group known as OPEC+.

“Oil is also feeling heavy after the Russians signalled they are unlikely to agree on deepening oil production cuts at the December OPEC + meeting,” said Edward Moya, an analyst at brokerage OANDA, in a note.

“The API data also showed U.S. inventories posted a rather robust increase last week, which if confirmed by the EIA report, we could see oil prices continue to slide,” he said.

Official U.S. government inventory data from the Energy Information Administration is due at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) on Wednesday.

U.S. crude demand has slowed amid its protracted trade war with China. Hopes for an end to the dispute in the signing of a so-called Phase 1 agreement between the sides has dimmed amid disagreements over the removal of tariffs each side has enacted.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that the United States would raise tariffs on Chinese imports if no deal is reached with Beijing to end the war.

Knock on effects from the trade war have been felt in other industrialized economies.

Japanese exports tumbled at their quickest pace in three years in October, threatening to tip the trade-reliant economy into recession because of weakening demand from the United States and China.

Crude imports to Japan, the world’s fourth-largest oil buyer, fell 1.3% in October compared to the same month a year ago.

Reporting by Seng Li Peng; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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