Oil dropped for the first time in three days, erasing a weekly gain, after China’s economy grew at the slowest pace in 11 quarters and Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said the producer is determined to see lower prices.
Futures fell as much as 0.5 percent after government data today showed China’s gross domestic product expanded 8.1 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter, after an 8.9 percent gain in the final three months of 2011. Industrial output rose at a faster pace in March, while retail sales growth accelerated. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, is not happy with prices and is working toward its goal of seeing levels drop, Ali al-Naimi said today.
“The GDP numbers were a negative surprise for growth- related assets, particularly oil,” Michael McCarthy, a chief market strategist at CMC Markets Asia Pacific Pty in Sydney, said by telephone today. “The fall so far is really a neutral situation on the China numbers because of the conflicting signals between the backward looking GDP and the forward looking industrial production.”
Crude for May delivery fell as much as 55 cents to $103.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $103.16 at 3 p.m. Singapore time. The contract gained 0.9 percent yesterday to $103.64, the highest close since April 3. Prices are down 0.2 percent for the week.
Brent oil for May settlement decreased 70 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $121.01 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices are down 2 percent this week, heading for the fourth weekly decline in five. The European benchmark contract’s premium to New York-traded West Texas Intermediate was at $17.82, compared with $18.07 yesterday. Front-month Brent futures expire today.
Oil in New York has technical resistance along its 50-day moving average, around $104.22 a barrel today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Futures yesterday traded above this indicator for the first time this week, before settling below it. Sell orders tend to be clustered near chart-resistance levels.
Gross domestic product in China was forecast to expand 8.4 percent, according to the median estimate of 41 economists in a Bloomberg News survey before the report from the National Bureau of Statistics. Industrial production increased 11.9 percent in March from a year earlier, today’s statistics bureau report showed. That compared with an 11.6 percent median estimate in the Bloomberg News survey and an 11.4 percent gain in January and February combined.
China, the world’s second-biggest consumer of oil, cut daily crude processing by 3 percent in March from a month earlier as refineries started maintenance, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics today.
Oil prices rose yesterday after central bank officials in the U.S. and Japan indicated they will use monetary policies to stimulate their economies. Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen and William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, endorsed the view that borrowing costs will stay near zero through 2014. The Bank of Japan (8301) “will pursue powerful easing” to overcome deflation, according to Governor Masaaki Shirakawa.
Saudi Arabia is working toward its goal of seeing prices drop by highlighting there’s no shortage of supply, al-Naimi said in a statement in Seoul today. Stockpiles held by consumer nations are rising and the kingdom is producing 10 million barrels a day, he said. That’s close to the fastest rate in at least 31 years, official data shows.
“We are seeing a prolonged period of high oil prices,” al-Naimi said. “We are not happy about it.” Fundamentally, the oil market remains balanced and there is no lack of supply, he said.
Oil may fall next week, a Bloomberg News survey showed. Sixteen of 33 analysts, or 49 percent, forecast prices will decline through April 20. Last week, 57 percent of surveyed analysts expected a decline.
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