Crude oil futures extended losses and hovered below $95 a barrel in Asian trading Thursday after plunging in the previous session as sentiment was weighed down by a couple of market rumors and a growing uncertainty on the Fed’s current monetary stimulus program.
Light sweet crude for April delivery declined 0.71 percent or 68 cents to $94.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange during the Asian trading hours. Brent crude oil futures for the April delivery fell 0.42 percent or 49 cents to $115.11 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
Oil prices saw a sharp fall Tuesday on rumors that a large hedge fund was forced to liquidate significant positions in oil and other commodities and on speculation that Saudi Arabia may boost its oil production in the second quarter of this year.
Sentiment was also weighed down after minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) January policy meet showed that officials remained largely divided on the $85 billion-per-month asset-buying scheme, raising concern that the economic recovery in the world’s largest oil consuming nation might falter.
Several members expressed concerns about potential costs and risks rising from further asset purchases and a number of them stated that the central bank might have to slow or halt asset-buying program before substantial improvement in the outlook for the labour market.
“Oil was on helium again and got ahead of fundamentals. But I think everyone is concerned because high frequency traders make the price moves more violent. Ichimoku cloud charts showed the next support level for Brent was at $114.31. Saudi was one of the catalysts, but the other is fear that the Fed might reduce quantitative easing,” Tony Nunan, a risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories increased by 3 million barrels for the week ending Feb.15 against expectations of 1.8 million barrels rise.
On Wednesday, the light sweet crude for the March delivery, which expired Wednesday, plunged 2.3 percent or $2.20 and settled at $94.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for the April delivery slipped 1.9 percent and settled at $115.60 a barrel.
After the markets open Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is due to report weekly inventory data expected to show that stockpiles increased by 1.8 million barrels last week.