Oil Falls as U.S-China Trade Hope Fades

Crude prices were lower on Thursday, giving back earlier gains as optimism over U.S.-China trade talks wore off.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures for February fell 1.62% to $51.51 a barrel as of 9:59 AM ET (14:59 GMT), compared to a high of $52.30 on Wednesday. Meanwhile Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., slipped 1.1% to $60.76 a barrel.

Trade tensions between the two countries eased somewhat on Wednesday after ending three days of talks, but there was no formal announcement. The meetings were originally scheduled for two days but were extended to a third day, which Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said was a sign that both sides are serious.

Another meeting between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is expected later in the month. The two countries have until March 1 to make a deal before the U.S. plans to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Still, global headwinds could slow the demand for fuel, as slowing economic growth and trade uncertainties have left some investors on edge. Increases in OPEC cuts have done nothing to make a dent in U.S. oil supply, which rose by 2 million barrels per day (bpd) last year to a world record 11.7 million bpd.

Meanwhile, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said he would not comply with the U.S. oil sanctions that were imposed in October.

“We believe that we should not comply with the illegal sanctions against Iran,” Zanganeh told a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart, Thamer al-Ghadhban.

In other energy trading, gasoline RBOB futures fell 0.9% to $1.4119 a gallon, while heating oil decreased 0.3% to $1.8747 a gallon. Natural gas futures jumped 1.1% to $3.018 per million British thermal units./investing.com

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