Oil Steady as Market Weighs US Demand Concerns, Mideast Conflict Risks

FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind a crude oil pump jack on a drill pad in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind a crude oil pump jack on a drill pad in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo
TT

Oil Steady as Market Weighs US Demand Concerns, Mideast Conflict Risks

FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind a crude oil pump jack on a drill pad in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind a crude oil pump jack on a drill pad in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, US November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo

Oil prices steadied on Thursday after settling lower in the previous day, as signs of retreating fuel demand in the US, the world's biggest oil user, contended with widening conflict risks in the key Middle East producing region.

Brent crude futures inched up 18 cents, or 0.2%, to $88.20 a barrel at 0630 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 13 cents, or 0.2%, to $82.94 a barrel, Reuters reported.

Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday showed that gasoline stockpiles fell less than forecast while distillate stockpiles rose against expectations of a decline, reflecting signs of slowing demand.

The falling fuel demand is occurring amid signs of cooling US business activity in April and as stronger-than-expected inflation and employment data means the US Federal Reserve is more likely to delay expected interest rate cuts, weighing on economic sentiment.

"The current weakness in benchmark prices, after testing above $90 (a barrel) levels, is due to market sentiment refocusing on global economic headwinds over geopolitical tensions," said Emril Jamil, senior oil analyst at LSEG Oil Research.
Geopolitics aside, prices this quarter will be driven by factors including major producer supply cuts, economic data out of China and Eurozone, on top of incremental demand expectations as the Northern Hemisphere heads into summer amid expected tighter supply, said Jamil.

A better indication of the Fed's rate intentions will be seen after US gross domestic product and March personal consumption expenditure data is released on Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas is expected to expand as Israel may start an assault on Rafah, in the enclave's south, which may increase the risk of a wider war that could potentially disrupt oil supplies.
However, there have been no other signs of direct conflict between Israel and Hamas-backer Iran, a major oil producer, since last week.
"Tensions between Iran and Israel have eased, but Israeli attacks on Gaza are expected to worsen, and the risk of conflicts spreading to neighboring countries is underpinning oil prices," said Toshitaka Tazawa, an analyst at Fujitomi Securities Co Ltd.
Other EIA data on Wednesday showed that crude stocks slumped by 6.4 million barrels to 453.6 million barrels, compared with expectations in a Reuters poll for an 825,000-barrel rise.



Maritime Disruptions Cast Shadow on Global Energy Security

A container ship passing through the Suez Canal (Suez Canal Official Website)
A container ship passing through the Suez Canal (Suez Canal Official Website)
TT

Maritime Disruptions Cast Shadow on Global Energy Security

A container ship passing through the Suez Canal (Suez Canal Official Website)
A container ship passing through the Suez Canal (Suez Canal Official Website)

As the world focuses on the Red Sea due to rising attacks on passing ships, experts warn of growing threats to the region's shipping lanes, which could impact global energy security.

Some link the disruptions to regional geopolitical changes, while others believe they are part of a planned strategy due to the area’s natural resources.

Recently, a commercial ship off Yemen’s coast issued a distress call after a missile attack.

This incident coincided with the first international conference on energy security through maritime safety kicking off in Cairo, organized by the Saif Bin Helal Center for Studies and Research in Energy Sciences.

The conference stressed that secure waterways are essential for energy exports and development.

“The region is unstable. Geostrategic, economic, and security challenges are mounting,” warned former Arab League Secretary-General and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa at the opening of the conference.

“Disruptions in maritime routes threaten the stability, sovereignty, and wealth of nations. These are broad challenges, not just Red Sea issues—they’re reshaping global interests,” he added.

With this warning, he highlighted the ongoing turmoil in the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandeb, and the Black Sea.

Moussa also warned about the risks of alternative routes being studied by various countries.

“These routes will serve specific national interests, not the security of international trade,” he cautioned.

On his part, Former Egyptian Petroleum Minister Osama Kamal stressed the vital role of the region’s waterways, especially with Gulf nations being major energy players worldwide.

He pointed out that without energy, there can be no development.

As the conference continued, British security firm Ambrey reported that a merchant vessel off the Yemeni coast took on water and tilted to one side after being targeted with three missiles.

The vessel issued a distress call stating it had sustained damage to the cargo hold and was taking on water approximately 54 nautical miles southwest of Yemen’s Hodeidah, Ambrey added.