By Emily Chow
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices were mixed on Thursday as investors balanced caution over tightening supply against concerns that a global slowdown could curb demand.
Brent crude futures for December settlement fell 14 cents, or 0.15%, to $92.27 a barrel at 0305 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery (WTI), which expires on Thursday, rose 53 cents, or 0.6%, to $86.08 per barrel. The WTI contract for December delivery was last up 0.3% at $84.78 a barrel.
“Oil prices are being whipsawed by a number of drivers in Q4 2022,” said Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar in a note.
“Prices face downward pressure from global growth concerns, a stronger U.S. dollar and rising U.S. 10-year nominal yields. Upward pressure though is coming from OPEC+ supply cuts and imminent EU sanctions on seaborne imports of Russian oil and refined production.”
Oil prices have been boosted by a looming European Union ban on Russian crude and oil products, as well as the output cut from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers including Russia, known as OPEC+.
The OPEC+ agreed on a production cut of 2 million barrels per day in early October – but analysts expect a smaller decline in actual output of about 1 million barrels per day due to under-production in countries such as Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria.
Seperately, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a plan on Wednesday to sell off the rest of his release from the nation’s emergency oil reserve by year’s end, or 15 million barrels of oil, and begin refilling the stockpile as he tries to dampen high gasoline prices ahead of midterm elections on Nov. 8.
The release however is “too small to impact the market,” said Commonwealth Bank’s Dhar, estimating it would increase global oil supplies by just 0.04 million barrels per day.
“EU sanctions on Russian oil imports will likely become the focus of the oil market in coming weeks… We expect Brent oil futures to average $100 per barrel in Q4 2022 on the back of supply disruption from the EU sanctions,” Dhar added.
Meanwhile, global demand for fuel remains uncertain. U.S. economic activity expanded modestly in recent weeks, although it was flat in some regions and declined in a couple of others, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in a report that showed firms growing more pessimistic about the outlook.
China has also continued with strict COVID-19 curbs this year, hurting business and economic activity in the world’s largest crude importer.
Global recession concerns and the potential for another aggressive U.S. rate hike were clouding the outlook for oil prices, said CMC Markets analyst Leon Li.
“Therefore, oil prices would return to a downtrend after a short-term rebound,” he said.
The Federal Reserve is seen delivering another large interest rate hike in November and ultimately lifting rates to 4.75%-5% by early next year, if not further, after a government report showed inflation remained stubbornly hot last month.
(Reporting by Laura Sanicola and Emily Chow in Singapore; editing by Richard Pullin and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)