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Brent holds above $114 on optimism on U.S. economy
January 30, 2013 / 3:40 AM / 5 years ago

Brent holds above $114 on optimism on U.S. economy

* U.S. housing market logs biggest yearly gain since 2006

* Investors await Fed policy meeting outcome, U.S. Q4 GDP

* China Jan PMI forecast at 50.9 vs Dec 50.6 -Reuters poll

* Coming Up: EIA weekly inventory report; 1530 GMT

By Jessica Jaganathan

SINGAPORE, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Brent prices held above $114 a barrel on Wednesday on optimism about the U.S. economy after a string of data out of the world’s largest oil consumer showed a recovery was gaining ground.

Still, investors are cautious about making big bets ahead of a two-day Federal Reserve policy meeting and first estimates for fourth-quarter U.S. gross domestic product due later in the day.

Brent crude edged up 2 cents to $114.38 a barrel by 0235 GMT, after reaching a more than three-month high in the previous session.

U.S. crude was down 2 cents to $97.55, after gaining nearly 1.2 percent in the previous session.

“There are bullish reasons to see oil prices rise and our view is that this week we will continue to see better-than-expected U.S. data, which should move oil in the same direction,” Jeremy Friesen, a commodities strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong, said.

“But we do think the supply side is probably enough and ultimately should cap oil prices in the second quarter.”

Investor sentiment got a boost after U.S. home prices rose in November, climbing more than five percent from a year ago, in the biggest increase since August 2006, when the housing market was starting to collapse.

But the focus is now on the Fed’s monetary policy committee, which started its two-day meeting on Tuesday. The Fed has said it expects to keep short-term U.S. interest rates exceptionally low to help support the economy.

The low rates have helped push up oil prices, as investors pour cash into riskier asset classes.

The short-term oil outlook was also buoyed by optimism of growth acceleration in China.

China’s factory activity in January probably expanded at its fastest pace in nine months, according to a Reuters poll ahead of official PMI data on Friday, adding to signs that recovery momentum is building as domestic demand strengthens.

Analysts say Chinese factories are approaching the end of a destocking cycle, which is usually followed by a rebuilding of inventories that will raise industrial output in 2013.

German consumer morale rose for the first time in four months while French consumer confidence held steady in January as fears of job losses eased, fuelling hopes demand will prop up growth in these countries.

The rebound in China’s growth is expected to continue until the second quarter before fading in the second half, though an economy rebound elsewhere towards year-end will likely sustain (global) growth rates for the whole year, Friesen said.

“We do think U.S. and European growth statistics will pick up at end of the year. The main driver of this optimism near-term has been China but we don’t think it’ll last the whole year,” he added.

“That’s generally positive for the commodity space but for the oil market in particular, oil supply is probably enough to cap that, barring any sudden supply risks.”

Supply risks from the Middle East capped oil price gains after at least 65 people were found shot dead with hands bound in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday in a “new massacre” in the near two-year revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.

U.S. OIL INVENTORIES

U.S. crude stocks rose 4.2 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported on Tuesday.

Crude stocks at Cushing fell 15,000 barrels, according to the API, while gasoline stocks rose 2.4 million barrels and distillate stocks fell 1.8 million barrels, the API said.

Analysts had expected U.S. crude stocks to rise 2.6 million barrels, according to a Reuters survey ahead of weekly inventory reports from the API and the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA weekly inventory report is due on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). (Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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