Crude fell on Friday after corporate profitability data in China, the world’s biggest importer of oil, disappointed in August, undermining oil prices that were already under pressure from a faster-than-expected recovery in Saudi Arabia’s processing plants that were attacked by drones.
Prices also declined on Friday as Saudi Arabia reportedly agreed to a partial ceasefire in Yemen.
West Texas Intermediate futures fell by 1.5% intraday to $55.44, giving up almost all of the double-digit gains from a drone attack on Aramco’s plants wiped out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s daily crude production. Current indications are the Kingdom is heading for an output level of more than 11 million barrels per day.
Brent futures also traded lower to just under $61, compared with more than $71 in the aftermath of the attack two weeks ago.
Oil was also under pressure mid-week after data from Energy Information Administration showed US crude stockpiles surprised the market with 2.4 million-barrel jump over a week, compared with a 249,000-barrel drop forecast in a Reuters survey of analysts.
Crude also declined on Friday after Saudi Arabia agreed to a partial ceasefire in Yemen, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources. The Houthi rebels, which some allege were involved in the drone attack, were cited as saying attacks on Saudi targets would stop if the Kingdom refrained from striking its positions.
In China, the National Bureau of Statistics said Friday industrial profits fell 2% in August, versus an increase of 2.6% in the previous month, as demand in the domestic market fell amid the ongoing trade war with the US.
Meanwhile, the number of oil rigs operating in the US fell by six to 713 during the week ended Sept. 27, the lowest level since May 2017, according to data compiled by energy services firm Baker Hughes (BHGE). The combined oil and gas rig count in the US dropped by eight to 860 as gas rigs fell by two to 146.
In Canada, the number of oil rigs in operation rose by six to 88, and gas rigs were up by two to 39 during the week in review. As a result, the North American total was unchanged 987 versus 1,232 a year ago, the data showed.
In a report Wednesday, Goldman Sachs analysts said, following meetings with exploration and production firms, companies were “generally bullish” on WTI oil prices for 2020, but did not appear to plan to invest capital commensurate with their bullishness.
“Consensus among the six company managements we met is that WTI oil prices are likely to average above $55/bbl in 2020,” Goldman wrote in the report.