UPDATE 8-Oil steadies as demand concerns counter U.S.-China trade hopes

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices steadied on Friday, but were on track for weekly losses, as concerns about slowed global economic growth contended with hints of progress in the U.S.-China trade dispute. Brent crude LCOc1 futures rose 5 cents to $60.43 a barrel by 1:14 p.m. EDT (1714 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures delivery fell 1 cent to $55.08 a barrel. Brent was on track to fall 1.8% for the week, its first decrease in five weeks. WTI was set for a 2.5% loss for the week, its first decrease in three weeks. The world’s two largest economies are preparing for new talks and have been making conciliatory gestures ahead of the discussions. China will exempt some agricultural products from additional tariffs on U.S. goods, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. Oil prices, however, remained under pressure by concern about a weaker demand outlook that could lead to potential oversupply. “Oil appears to be suggesting that global economic growth has already been impacted by the tariffs while other markets such as the equities appear more focused on future progress,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note. Both the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the International Energy Agency (IEA) this week said oil markets could end up in surplus next year, despite a pact by OPEC and its allies to limit supplies. That is largely being offset by growth in U.S. production. U.S. energy firms this week reduced the number of oil rigs operating for a fourth week in a row, cutting five oil rigs this week and bringing the total count down to 733, the lowest since November 2017, General Electric Co’s (GE.N) Baker Hughes energy services firm said. RIG-OL-USA-BHI Brent prices have risen about 12% so far in 2019, helped by the deal between OPEC and allies, known as OPEC+, to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day. An OPEC+ monitoring committee met this week and secured pledges from OPEC members Nigeria and Iraq to deliver their share of the cut, something they have failed to do so far, but so far the group has not decided to deepen the curbs. “In order to avoid a price slide and a massive inventory build, OPEC+ would need to implement further voluntary production cuts,” said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank. “The challenge facing OPEC+ is thus likely to become even bigger next year.” Some OPEC delegates say the idea of a larger cut for next year is gaining support, though Saudi Arabia’s new energy minister said talks on that issue would be left until the next OPEC+ meeting in December.

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