Oil pares gains on slowing U.S. economy

By @ibtimes on

U.S. cryde prices pared gains on Thursday as weaker-than-expected economic growth in the world's top economy partly offset a sliding dollar and signs of lower North Sea supplies.

U.S. crude for June rose 30 cents to $113.06 a barrel by 1334 GMT, after touching the highest in 2-1/2 years of $113.70 a barrel.

Brent crude futures were up 47 cents at $125.60 a barrel by the same time.

We see a soft patch in economic activity in Q2 and with oil prices sustained at these levels, people will be looking more intently at signs of demand destruction, said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas.

The oil market is balancing upside and downside risk to prices, and as these factors appear to even out, oil prices have consolidated and we are more or less range-bound.

Oil prices were volatile as traders grappled with data showing U.S. economic growth slowed to 1.8 percent in the first quarter as higher food and gasoline prices dampened consumer spending.

A jump in U.S. claims for unemployment benefits to their highest level since January also weighed on sentiment, with the data signaling an anticipated recovery in the labor markets may take some time.

But the economic weakness is expected to keep the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy loose, weighing on the dollar which fell to a three-year low and boosting dollar-denominated oil.

The weaker dollar supports crude and the jobless report seems to indicate the Fed is going to continue its fight against unemployment at the expense of interest rates and the U.S. dollar, said Peter Beutal, president at Cameron Hanover in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Earlier on Thursday, signs of lower supplies from the North Sea had boosted the Brent benchmark, after traders said at least two Forties cargoes had been canceled and others delayed from the May loading program.

Light, sweet oil sourced from the North Sea has served as a vital substitute for Libyan exports which are virtually paralyzed due to conflict and international sanctions.

Oil prices are still carrying a hefty risk premium due to political unrest in the Middle East, with Ben Westmore of National Australia Bank estimating this as high as $20-$25.

(Additional reporting by Manash Goswami in Singapore; editing by William Hardy)

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