Weekly oil prices down sharply amid trade concerns

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Oil prices lost ground for the week ending May 31, with the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for July delivery down 8.75 percent and Brent crude oil for July delivery down 6.11 percent, as investors were concerned about trade tensions between the United States and other countries.

WTI closed the week at 53.5 U.S. dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude finished the week at 64.49 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange. WTI and Brent have increased 17.82 percent and 19.68 percent, respectively, so far this year.

During the week, WTI and Brent moved in the same direction. The decrease of oil prices showed that oil traders were more concerned about the escalation of U.S.-Mexico trade tensions, which could result in global economic slowdown and weakening demand for energy.

New York Mercantile Exchange closed on Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday.

On Tuesday, oil prices gained as market participants weighed risks to energy demand amid concerns over supplies. WTI increased 0.51 dollar to settle at 59.14 dollars a barrel, while Brent crude was up 1.42 dollars to close at 70.11 dollars a barrel.

On Wednesday, oil prices slid as investors were increasingly anxious about energy demand driven by trade fears and economic slowdown worries. WTI dipped 0.33 dollar to settle at 58.81 dollars a barrel while Brent crude was down 0.66 dollar to close at 69.45 dollars a barrel.

Oil prices fell sharply on Thursday after data showed smaller-than-expected weekly decline in U.S. crude stockpiles amid concerns over weakening demand for the energy. WTI dipped 2.22 dollars to settle at 56.59 dollars a barrel while Brent crude was down 2.58 dollars to close at 66.87 dollars a barrel.

U.S. crude oil inventories decreased during the week ending May 24, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report on Thursday. According to EIA, U.S. commercial crude oil inventories, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, decreased by 0.3 million barrels from the previous week, a rate well below the 1.4 million-barrel decline estimated by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts.

Oil prices plunged on Friday as U.S. administration's new tariff threat on Mexico intensified concerns over energy trade and economic outlook. WTI dipped 3.09 dollars to settle at 53.50 dollars a barrel while Brent crude was down 2.38 dollars to close at 64.49 dollars a barrel.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would impose a 5-percent tariff on all imported Mexican goods beginning June 10 so as to pressure the country to halt undocumented migrants crossing the border. Experts said the move could hit the longstanding lucrative cross-border energy trade, especially hitting U.S. refiners that use Mexican oil.

Oil prices have kept gaining momentum since the start of the year due to some geopolitical concerns. The momentum has slowed down recently, mainly because of the concerns over downturn in demand for crude oil.

The slowing global economy is a major headwind for crude oil. The slower economic growth of the world, mainly due to the ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China, as well as Mexico, will lead to less demand for oil, which, in turn, would put downward pressure on oil prices.

Moreover, a rising U.S. dollar in the past months has dragged down the greenback-denominated crude futures, as the U.S. Dollar Index has been keeping uptrend since mid-2018. U.S. Dollar Index closed the week at 97.61 level, erasing almost three days of gains due to the trade tensions.

The U.S. Dollar Index is a measure of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to a basket of foreign currencies. Oil is mostly traded in dollars all over the world and a stronger dollar pressures the oil demand.

In the near future, demand growth and geopolitical issues, including the Brexit, remain as important factors for oil prices. Both OPEC and the International Energy Agency believe the world oil demand will keep uptrend in coming years, although OPEC has revised down demand growth of the world oil market.

In the coming week, analysts believe the Brexit and trade tensions will continue to take the spotlight. Moreover, the relations between the United States and Iran and the ongoing production cuts by OPEC and Russia will continue to play their roles in tightening the global supplies, in turn, giving a boost to the prices. 

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