Oil Prices Pull Back from 2019 Highs as Weak U.S. Data Breaks 4-Day Rally

15 Mar 2019

Oil Prices Pull Back from 2019 Highs as Weak U.S. Data Breaks 4-Day Rally

Oil prices turned lower on Friday as weak data out of the U.S. prompted traders to take profits after a four-day rally.

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 36 cents, or 0.61%, at $58.25 a barrel by 10:35 AM ET (14:35 GMT), pulling off $58.95, its highest level of the year.

Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., traded down 59 cents, or 0.88%, to $66.64.

Manufacturing activity in the New York area fell unexpectedly in March, hitting its lowest level since 2017, while U.S. manufacturing production also registered a surprise decline, falling for a second consecutive month in February.

The weaker data adds to other soft reports ranging from retail sales to housing, suggesting that the American economy lost significant momentum early in the first quarter.

With signs of a slowdown in the global economy, there are marked concerns that a breakdown in trade negotiations between the U.S. and China could lessen demand from the world’s two largest oil importers.

Even with Friday’s disappointing data, oil remained on track for a solid week of gains. A barrel of West Texas is up 3.5% on signs that OPEC-led production cuts are working to constrain the supply glut.

In fact, the International Energy Agency forecast on Friday that demand would increase, leading to a potential supply deficit as soon as the second quarter of this year.

In other energy trading, gasoline futures fell 0.90% to $1.8329 a gallon by 10:38 AM ET (14:38 GMT), while heating oil dropped 0.91% to $1.9669 a gallon.

Lastly, natural gas futures declined 1.23% to $2.820 per million British thermal unit.

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