Brent oil remains $107 as China slowdown stokes demand worries

BEIJING – Brent oil was $107 a barrel on Monday as slowdown in China demand creates worries, but cold weather of northern Hemisphere and tensions in the Middle East curbed losses.

Emerging markets came under pressure as the U.S. Federal Reserve looked set to continue tapering its stimulus and as tighter credit conditions in China raised fears of a slowdown.

However, expectations the West will pick up the slack in China’s slowing oil demand-growth meant losses in crude futures were limited.

Brent crude was 32 cents off 107.56 dollars a barrel, after settling 30 cents higher. U.S. oil gained 22 cents to 96.86 dollars, having ended 68 cents lower.

“Overall, the fundamental scenario for oil is not so bad because you have recovery in the U.S and Europe making up for China trend,” said Tony Nunan.

He is an oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo. “But will we have to go through another crisis of a contagion across emerging markets? That’s the thing in everybody’s mind now.”

China’s economic growth will slow gradually over the next two years, a media poll showed. Growth for 2014 may come in at 7.4 per cent, according to the median forecast.

That would mark the slowest expansion for the economy since 1990. “The government is doing the right thing, but China is a bit of a double-edged sword,” said Nunan.

Fed officials are seen cutting bond-buying by another 10 billion dollars at their regular two-day policy meeting beginning on Tuesday.

“If further tapering were to occur, the U.S.-denominated crude is likely to suffer in the short-term due to the strengthening in the greenback,” analysts at Phillip Futures said in a note. However, long-term prospects will be positive as it underpins recovery in the U.S. economy, suggesting higher demand for the commodity.”

Around this time of the year as peak winter season demand ebbs and refineries go in for maintenance, oil should typically come under pressure, Nunan said.

But the severe cold spell in the U.S., Europe and Japan means that Brent may trade between 106 dollars and 108 dollars a barrel for the week, he said.

Prices are also drawing support from lingering worries of a worsening geopolitical crisis in the Middle East.

– VANGUARD

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