HOUSTON: Oil prices fell nearly 4% on Wednesday (Dec 6) to their lowest settlements since June, as worries about global fuel demand mounted after US data showed a larger-than-expected rise in petrol inventories.

Brent crude futures settled down US$2.90, or 3.8%, at US$74.30 (RM346.86) a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell by US$2.94, or 4.1%, to US$69.38 (RM323.52) a barrel.

“There is demand destruction coming in from the fuel side,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice-president of trading at BOK Financial.

“The market is more demand focused than supply focused right now.”

Concerns over China’s economic health and future fuel demand also weighed on prices, a day after rating agency Moody’s lowered the outlook on China’s A1 rating to negative from stable.

US petrol stocks rose by 5.4 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said, more than quintuple the one-million-barrel rise that analysts had expected. US petrol futures plummeted to their lowest in two years.

“Even though it was not the peak gasoline (petrol) season, demand during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend was lacklustre,” said John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital LLC.

Petrol demand last week lagged the 10-year seasonal average by 2.5%.

The US dollar touched a two-week high, which pressures demand by making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

An unexpected fall in US crude inventories did little to support prices. Crude inventories fell by 4.6 million barrels, far exceeding the 1.4-million-barrel drop analysts had expected.

Opec+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies such as Russia agreed late last week on voluntary output cuts of about 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first quarter of 2024.

This week, Saudi and Russian officials said the cuts should prevent a build up in oil inventories in the first quarter and could be extended or deepened.

Despite the Opec+ supply curbs, prices have slipped nearly 11% since the settlement on Nov. 29, the day before Opec+ met.

On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin travelled to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to meet with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Oil and Opec+ were on the agenda.

Forward prices for US crude were at their steepest premium to prompt barrels, a sign of ample supply and growing fears of slow demand. – Reuters

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