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Oil prices give up gains ahead of Fed move

Singapore :  Oil prices retreated in Asian trading hours today following fresh indications of growing oversupply ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s long-awaited decision on interest rates.

After a late technical rally in New York, US benchmark
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery was trading 43 cents lower at USD 36.92 by 0800 IST while Brent crude for January was 33 cents down at USD 38.12.

“WTI gave back some of those gains early this morning as a report from the American Petroleum Institute showed that US crude inventories had increased by 2.3 million barrels in the week through to 11 December,” said Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

“Furthermore, markets are expected to stay cautious ahead of the (Fed policy) meeting, even though there is an overwhelming consensus that the Federal Reserve is poised to raise interest rates this Thursday (Asia time).”

The bank will announce its decision at 2:00 pm (local time) today, along with Fed projections for growth, inflation and interest rates over the next two years.

Higher US interest rates would make it costlier for countries with weaker currencies to purchase oil, further dampening demand.

Prices have fallen more than 60 per cent since June 2014 owing to anaemic demand, a slowdown in key energy-consuming markets and a global glut.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ refusal in early December to resort to production caps accelerated the fall in the past two weeks.

Analysts say Iranian oil also looks certain to re-enter markets next year after the lifting of sanctions linked to its controversial nuclear programme.

The UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency yesterday said it was closing its “consideration” of “possible military dimensions” of the programme, clearing one hurdle for sanctions relief under a deal between Tehran and six major powers.

“Sanctions against Iran can be lifted as soon as January as the IAEA ended its 12-year probe into the Islamic nation’s nuclear research, which can put downward pressure on oil,” Bloomberg News quoted Hong Sung Ki, a commodities analyst at Samsung Futures Inc in Seoul, as saying.

“If US supplies expanded, it can be a strong bearish factor because seasonally it’s the time for stockpiles to shrink.”

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