United States and China on brink of trade war, oil markets tense

Oil prices at highest level in three years

Oil was mixed last week as a Canadian supply outage supported U.S. crude prices, while an increase in production from Opec's biggest exporter Saudi Arabia pushed Brent lower. "U.S. sellers would have to find alternative buyers".

Baker Hughes reported an increase in the number of active oil rigs in the United States today.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures ended Friday's session up 86 cents a barrel, or 1.2%, to $73.80/Bbl, Kallanish Energy reports.

US crude futures slipped on Thursday after data showed an unexpected 1.3-million-barrel build in crude inventories. OPEC agreed to slash the output by 1.2 million barrels per day from January 1. Traders were looking for a decrease of 2.5 million barrels for gasoline, and 250,000 barrels for distillate stocks.

India is likely to benefit from increased supplies of crude oil from the United States as U.S. oil producers look for new markets as they brace for a trade war with China that could curb USA shipments, says a report. USA crude futures added 29 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $74.09, Reuters reports.

Although just 5 percent of China's overall crude imports, these supplies are worth $1 billion a month at current prices - a figure that seems certain to fall should a duty be implemented.

An additional fact to consider: Tariffs would make US oil uncompetitive in China.

"If China imposes tariffs, their refineries won't buy USA crude since it would cost more", Reuters quoted Sandy Fielden, director of research for commodities and energy at Morningstar Inc, as saying over telephone.

Beijing has threatened a 25 percent tariff on USA crude imports, although it has not specified an introduction date.

China says it will retaliate, and U.S. President Trump said on Thursday he may ultimately impose tariffs on more than a half-trillion dollars worth of Chinese goods. In May, Indian refiners imported 4.7 million barrels or about nine times more than April and the most of any month based on US government data going back to 2015.

In other news, potential supply shortages continue to be the hot topic.

"Venezuela ... will lose another 400,000 barrels a day by year-end, with production going to below 1-million barrels a day", FGE said, noting that another 300,000 barrels a day of Libyan capacity was disrupted.

Energy consultancy FGE warned on Friday of looming supply shortages due to U.S. sanctions against Iran, and because of disruptions elsewhere. Saudi Arabia had earlier reported to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that they had pumped 10.488 million bpd in June, up by 458,000 bpd from their self-reported figure for May, OPEC sources told Reuters.

"The more that Saudi Arabia adds to the market, the less of a supply cushion we have - that's a bullish twist to a bearish development", said Yawger at Mizuho. At this time, there may not be enough spare capacity to cover the losses from Venezuela and Libya.

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