Oil steady as recession woes counter positive Chinese signals

Pump jacks operate at sunset in Midland, Texas, U.S., February 11, 2019. Picture taken February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

HOUSTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Oil prices held steady on Monday in choppy trading as fears that high inflation and energy costs could drag the global economy into recession offset China's continuation of loose monetary policy.

Brent crude futures were down 1 cents, or 0.01%, to $91.62 a barrel, recovering from a 6.4% fall last week. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 15 cents, or 0.2%, at $85.46 after a 7.6% decline last week.

"U.S. inflation remains a front topic and with the Fed set to raise rates at least into next year, there are fears that demand destruction will escalate," said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

China's central bank rolled over maturing medium-term policy loans on Monday while keeping its key interest rate unchanged for a second month, in a signal that loose monetary policy would be maintained.

Beijing will also greatly increase domestic energy supply capacity and step up risk controls in key commodities including coal, oil, gas and electricity, a senior National Energy Administration official said on Monday.

China will further increase reserve capacities for key commodities, another state official told a news conference in Beijing.

Chinese trade and third-quarter GDP data, along with September activity data, are due to be released on Tuesday, with quarterly growth possibly rebounding from the previous quarter but annual growth threatening to be China's worst in almost half a century.

Meanwhile, a strong U.S. dollar and the likelihood of further interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve are helping to contain price gains.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Friday said inflation had become "pernicious" and difficult to arrest, warranting continued "frontloading" through larger rate increases of three-quarters of a percentage point.

Inflation in the United States remains stubborn and growth in European Union countries is expected to weaken to 0.5%, International Monetary Fund official Gita Gopinath said on Monday.

"It's been another turbulent few weeks in oil markets from global growth concerns to super-sized OPEC+ output cuts and it seems they're yet to fully settle down," said Craig Erlam, senior markets analyst at OANDA.

"Brent has seen lows of $82 and highs of $98, so perhaps what we're now seeing is it finding its feet somewhere in the middle."

Oil supply is likely to remain tight after OPEC and allies including Russia pledged on Oct. 5 to cut output by 2 million barrels per day while a war of words between OPEC's de facto leader Saudi Arabia and the United States could foreshadow more volatility.

OPEC+ output cuts attracted funds back to the oil markets, with continued heavy buying of crude oil futures and options for a second straight week.

Easing the supply crunch, oil output in the Permian in Texas and New Mexico, the biggest U.S. shale oil basin, is due to rise by about 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a record 5.453 million bpd in November, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its productivity report on Monday.

Additional reporting by Noah Browning in London, Mohi Narayan in New Delhi and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Susan Fenton, Kirsten Donovan, David Goodman, Ed Osmond, Paul Simao and David Gregorio

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