SINGAPORE, Jan 11 (Reuters) – U.S. oil prices edged down on Friday as concerns over economic growth were rekindled after talks fell short of offering concrete steps to end the Sino-U.S. trade conflict, although OPEC-led production cuts bolstered sentiment in crude markets.
Oil prices were also supported by comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday that the central bank had the ability to be patient on monetary policy.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures had slipped 23 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last settlement to $52.36 per barrel by 0016 GMT.
However, U.S. crude was on track for a second consecutive week of gains and its largest weekly percentage increase in more than two years. WTI has climbed about 9 percent so far this week, its biggest weekly rise since December, 2016.
International Brent crude futures had yet to trade.
China said three days of talks with the United States that wrapped up on Wednesday had established a “foundation” to resolve differences over trade. But it gave few details on key issues at stake, including a scheduled U.S. tariff increase on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.
A partial U.S. government shutdown and tepid economic data in some countries also dragged on broad financial markets.
“The U.S. government shutdown and weak retail sales figures around the world reinvigorated concerns about (economic) growth,” analysts at ANZ bank said in a note on Friday.
China’s producer prices in December rose at their slowest pace in more than two years, a worrying sign of deflationary risks that could see Beijing roll out more policy support to help stabilise the economy.
“However, investors are becoming increasingly confident that OPEC+ production cuts will balance the market,” ANZ said.
Saudi Arabia said earlier this week that supply curbs started in late 2018 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers including Russia, would bring the oil market into balance.
“Saudi is turning the screws on export supply in order to re-balance the market in their favour. Prices are maintaining highs which suggests that the recent bullish move is not yet over,” said Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer at Probis Securities in Sydney.
“We expect more bullish rhetoric from OPEC, especially from Saudi Arabia to help shore up the prices. U.S. producers will just enjoy the rise.”
The likelihood of supply curbs elsewhere also helped buoy oil markets.
Norway’s oil industry regulator said the country’s crude output in 2019 would be smaller than previously forecast and at its lowest level in three decades.
Meanwhile, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Thursday U.S. sanctions against his country were “fully illegal” and Tehran would not comply with them. (Reporting by Koustav Samanta in Singapore Editing by Joseph Radford)
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