Oil prices down in Asia on supply glut worries


SINGAPORE — Oil prices fell in Asia on Monday, giving up some of last week’s sharp gains as concerns about a global supply glut weighed on prices ahead of fresh U.S. stocks data.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in February was down 34 cents at US$37.76 and Brent crude for February was trading 12 cents lower at US$37.77 a barrel at around 0635 GMT. Prices jumped last week after data showed an unexpected fall in U.S. commercial crude stockpiles, with WTI adding almost 10 percent. News that the U.S. would resume exports after a 40-year ban also helped to drive the country’s benchmark to a premium over London-traded Brent, which is seen as a measure of global prices. “With no major economic news during the week, which will be a short trading week due to holidays, the markets will be looking closely for EIA’s weekly U.S. crude oil inventory data,” said Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at EY. Analysts predict the U.S. Energy Information Administration will on Wednesday report another fall in U.S. crude stockpiles, an indication of stronger demand in the world’s top oil consumer. “Further evidence of continued drawdown in the U.S. crude oil inventory could strengthen WTI in the near term and widen its spread over Brent,” Gupta said. Oil prices have been under pressure since 2014 due to concerns about a persistent glut in world supplies and weak demand.

Daniel Ang, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore, said the end of the U.S. export ban could make that worse by encouraging the country’s shale producers to boost output. “As we have always placed our hopes on decreasing U.S. production to help ease the global oversupply, this could prolong any possible recovery to oil prices,” he said in a market commentary. “Therefore, we would have to really keep a close eye on how U.S. crude oil production would be going.” The U.S. export ban was imposed in 1975 to protect U.S. energy supplies after the Arab oil embargo shook the American economy.