Crude-oil prices retreated early Friday and were on track to book a weekly loss for the first time in three weeks, a day after the U.S. benchmark contract suffered its lowest settlement in more than a week amid signs of rising domestic supplies.
Investors have contended with calls by President Donald Trump for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to lower prices that have climbed across a multiweek rally, fueled by disruptions to supply and efforts by the oil cartel to reduce a glut of oil that punished prices in recent years.
August West Texas Intermediate crude CLQ8, -0.77% on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the U.S. benchmark, fell 55 cents, or 0.8%, to $72.39 a barrel. September Brent crude LCOU8, -1.25% the global benchmark, shed 77 cents, or 0.8%, to $76.65 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.
For the week, WTI oil is set to shed 2.4%, while Brent is on track for a weekly slide of 3.5%, according to FactSet data. Both contracts had logged back-to-back weekly gains.
Data from the Energy Information Administration on Thursday showed that crude stockpiles rose by 1.2 million barrels for the week ended June 29. Analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts had forecast a fall of 4.5 million barrels, and the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday reported a drop that matched that forecast.
The data, which were released a day later than usual because of Wednesday’s Independence Day holiday, marked the first increase since the week ended June 1.
Declines in futures contracts appeared to ratchet higher Thursday afternoon after the Wall Street Journal raised doubts over the initial public offering of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, known as Aramco. Analysts had said that the IPO was at least part of the reason that the Saudis were pushing for higher oil prices by agreeing to production cuts that began in 2017.
Trump, meanwhile, in a series of tweets, has called for Saudi officials, which represent the most influential oil producer in OPEC, to help pump more crude and lower prices. OPEC and its allies, namely Russia, had agreed in a June meeting to effectively raise output by 1 million barrels a day to help counteract lost barrels from Venezuela and Iran.
Meanwhile, escalating tensions between China and the U.S., with the two largest economies in the world implementing tariffs $34 billion on their respective imports and the threat of more action, can weigh on crude prices, softening demand expectations.
“The U.S. imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports today, with a further $16 billion set to kick in two weeks. President Trump has said that the final total could reach $550 billion,” wrote Robert Yawger, director of energy at Mizuho Securities U.S.A.
Looking ahead, oil traders will keep one eye on data on the jobs market from the Labor Department, set to be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, which could help gauge the health of the economy, another potential demand factor for oil. Economists polled by MarketWatch forecast the country added 200,000 jobs in June, with the rate of unemployment holding at 3.8%.
Later in the day, investors get a look at rig-count data from Baker Hughes at 1 p.m., which could provide further clues about the pace of domestic production. The number of oil rigs declined by four to 858 last week.