August 22, 2019 / 1:25 AM / 24 days ago

Oil eases as Fed's Jackson Hole meeting gets underway

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices weakened on Thursday on worries about the global economy and as equity markets were on edge over the uncertain outlook for U.S. interest rate cuts.

FILE PHOTO: A pump jack operates at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

Traders are awaiting a speech from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that could indicate whether the U.S. central bank will continue to cut interest rates.

Brent crude LCOc1 settled down 38 cents, or 0.6%, at $59.92 a barrel by 12:34 p.m. ET (1634 GMT), while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 ended the session 33 cents, or 0.6% lower at $55.35.

“The market will be shifting focus today to broader based macro headlines with comments out of Jackson Hole likely to be prioritized in this regard,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates.

“While we are not expecting any dramatic developments capable of swinging the equities either way by more than 1% or so, we feel that current bullish momentum in the oil market could allow the energy complex to absorb bearish guidance much easier than any negative Jackson Hole guidance that may be forthcoming.”

U.S. stocks turned lower on Thursday after the first contraction in the manufacturing sector in nearly a decade and comments from two Fed officials dampened hopes of future interest rate cuts.

The Jackson Hole speech is important for oil as signals from the Fed on monetary easing affect the U.S. dollar, which fell on Thursday against a basket of currencies .DXY. A weaker U.S. currency tends to support oil prices.

Concerns over the impact of U.S.-China trade tensions on the longest U.S. economic expansion on record prompted the Fed to cut interest rates last month for the first time since 2008. The prolonged trade spat has sparked worries about growth in oil demand.

Forecasters such as the International Energy Agency have been lowering forecasts for world oil demand.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was “the chosen one” to address trade imbalances with China, even as congressional researchers warned his tariffs would reduce U.S. economic output by 0.3% in 2020.

Still, the price of Brent is up by about 13% this year, supported by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and export cuts affecting Iran and Venezuela which are under U.S. sanctions.

Iran said on Wednesday if its oil exports are cut to zero, international waterways would not have the same security as before, cautioning Washington against raising pressure on Tehran.

Oil prices were also supported as inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, fell by about 1.5 million barrels between Friday and Tuesday, traders said, citing data from market intelligence firm Genscape.

Stockpiles at the storage hub have fallen for seven straight weeks, according to government data.

Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London, Koustav Samanta; Editing by Marguerita Choy, David Holmes and Richard Chang

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