Crude price outlook: Although concerns over geopolitical and trade spats will cap gains, a more optimistic sentiment this week should see Brent trade at US$68/b and WTI at US$64/b.
"Equities have been the most significant external driver for the short-term price direction of oil, with the significant volatility coming (partly) from the perception of a trade war", said Dominic Chirichella, senior partner at the Energy Management Institute in NY. The extent to which it counterbalance output cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will be critical, said Gene McGillian, manager of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford.
Prices have fallen despite a drop in United States oil inventories and dwindling OPEC output. Still, government data due on Wednesday is forecast to show stockpiles rose for the fifth time in six weeks.
The threat of a trade with with China has impacted the USA economic outlook, and generated demand worries in the oil patch. The contract fell 14 cents to $63.37 on Wednesday. Total volume traded on Thursday was about 23 percent below the 100-day average.
At 0611 GMT, May WTI crude oil is trading $63.26, down $0.26 or -0.38% and June Brent is at $67.82, down $0.30 or -0.44%.
Nymex May oil futures ended USD1.48 lower at USD63.54 a barrel, down 2.3%.
Lending some price support to oil was a comment on Tuesday by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, referring to earlier comments by Saudi Arabia that talks were taking place on a long-term market co-operation deal between Opec and non-Opec producers led by Russia.
Gasoline stocks fell by 1.1 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations for a 1.3 million barrels drop.
Oil prices rose on Thursday, holding onto a late-session rally the previous day, buoyed by the USA government data showing a surprise drawdown in crude stockpiles.
Before the rebound late on Wednesday, after the release of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory data, WTI and Brent had hit two-week lows after China proposed a broad range of tariffs on USA exports, feeding fears of a trade war.