Oil prices down 1.5% for the week on recession jitters

Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, in Cushing, Oklahoma, March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo
  • Speculators cut U.S. crude oil net longs -CFTC
  • Dollar driven to five-week high by Fed rate hike forecasts
  • Fed has 'a lot of time' before next rate decision, Barkin says
  • OPEC chief optimistic on demand
  • U.S. oil rig count flat for the week -Baker Hughes

NEW YORK, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Oil prices steadied on Friday, but fell for the week on a stronger U.S. dollar and fears that an economic slowdown would weaken crude demand.

Brent crude futures settled at $96.72 a barrel, gaining 13 cents. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude ended 27 cents higher at $90.77. Both benchmarks fell about 1.5% on the week.

Oil briefly jumped in volatile trade on comments by Richmond Federal Reserve President Thomas Barkin who said the drive to raise rates also needs to be balanced with the impact rate hikes are having on the economy. read more But crude pared gains as investor concerns about upcoming rate hikes settled back in.

Strength in the U.S. dollar hit a five-week high, which also capped crude's gains as it makes oil more expensive for buyers in other currencies.

"Although the oil complex has been able to shrug off a strong dollar on any given session, extended strong dollar trends will pose a major headwind against sustainable oil price gains," Jim Ritterbusch, of oil trading advisory firm Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.

In a sign of easing oil supply tightness, the price gap between prompt and second-month Brent futures has narrowed by about $5 a barrel since the end of July to under $1. The spread for WTI has shrunk to a 39-cent premium from a nearly $2 premium in late July.

Haitham Al Ghais, the new secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, told Reuters he was optimistic about oil demand into 2023. read more

OPEC is keen to ensure Russia remains part of the OPEC+ group, Al Ghais said ahead of a Sept. 5 meeting. read more

Supplies could tighten again when European buyers start seeking alternative supplies to replace Russian oil ahead of European Union sanctions that take effect from Dec. 5.

"We calculate the EU will need to replace 1.2 million barrels per day of seaborne Russian crude imports with crude from other regions," consultancy FGE said in a note.

Data earlier this week showed U.S. crude inventories fell sharply as the world's top producer exported a record 5 million barrels of oil per day last week, with oil companies finding demand from European nations looking to replace Russian crude.

However, the number of U.S. oil rigs, an early indicator of future supply, was unchanged at 601 this week, according to Baker Hughes Co (BKR.O), as energy companies slowly increase production to pre-pandemic levels with shale oil output in September expected to hit its highest since March 2020.

Money managers, meanwhile, cut their net long U.S. crude futures and options positions in New York and London by 18,389 contracts to 154,824 in the week to Aug. 16, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said.

Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in London, Florence Tan in Singapore and Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo Editing by Marguerita Choy and Matthew Lewis

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