Crude oil slipped further in Asia on Thursday as a punishing bear trend continued for the commodity, with current prices well below downward-revised analyst expectations.
ICE Brent crude oil futures slipped 1.06% to $54.33 a barrel, while NYMEX WTI eased 1.98% to $45.62 a barrel. Brent crude settled up 2.06% to $54.91 a barrel on Wednesday and WTI rose 2.49% to $46.54 a barrel.
“We are lowering our estimates for WTI to $61-$65 a barrel from $68-$71 a barrel,” MUFG Securities Americas said in a note to clients. The downgrade on crude prices follows a slew of moves by leading analysts from Jefferies, Societe Generale, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs that have largely failed to keep pace with a decline that saw benchmark Brent slip nearly 20% for 2018.
Analysts cite potentially weaker demand by the world’s top crude importer, China, after disappointing manufacturing data for December, as a key driver of lower prices. The fears of a slowdown were heightened after Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a letter to shareholders: “We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China.”
At the same time, President Donald Trump hailed lower gasoline prices at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday as a byproduct of his jawboning OPEC to pump more. OPEC and allies actually agreed to cut production at a meeting in Vienna in early December.
Ahead, the American Petroleum Institute releases its estimates of weekly US crude oil and refined product inventories at 16:30 ET. The data is delayed from its usual Tuesday release because of the New Year holiday.
Analysts expect a 2.333 million barrels draw in US crude stocks, a 2.267 million barrels gain in gasoline supplies and a 2.567 million barrels increase in distillates. The data is followed by official figures from the Energy Information Administration on Friday at 10:30 ET. The data sets often diverge.
US natural gas futures on the NYMEX fell 1.25% to to $2.923 per MMBtu.