Oil prices changed slightly on Friday amid concerns over weak economic growth, expecting crude demand to rise again as Shanghai lifted some coronavirus lockdowns.
Brent futures for July delivery fell 36 cents, or 0.3%, to 1 111.68 a barrel by 0015 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 36 cents, or 0.3%, to 1 111.85 on its last day of the previous month.
WTI futures for July, which will be next month, are down about 0.6% at 9 109.20 a barrel.
This is the first time since mid-February that the WTI has been on the rise for the fourth consecutive week. Brent was down less than 1% after falling less than 1% last week.
With crude gains limited this week, Brent and the US benchmark are trading in a range mostly due to the uncertain path of demand. Investors, worried about rising inflation and more aggressive measures by the central bank, are reducing exposure to risky assets.
Open interest in WTI futures, for example, fell to 1.722 million contracts on May 18, the lowest since July 2016.
“If US growth data continues to be bullish, oil prices could be stuck in a negative stock market feedback loop,” said Stephen Innes, managing director of SPI Asset Management, in a client note.
Wall Street ended lower after a volatile session on Thursday, when investors were worried about inflation and rising interest rates.
In China, however, oil demand could return as Shanghai authorities lifted some coronavirus lockdowns and residents were given the freedom to go out for grocery shopping for the first time in almost two months. China is the world’s top crude importer.
In the United States, Americans were getting behind the wheel despite high fuel prices, according to a report on the Federal Highway Administration’s car miles.
Automobile club AAA said petrol and diesel prices at pumps reached record highs again on Thursday.
The U.S. House has passed a bill that would allow the president to issue a fuel emergency declaration, making it illegal for companies to raise excessive gasoline and household fuel prices.
The prospect of an EU embargo on Russian oil imports has helped support prices. This month, the EU proposed a new package of sanctions against Ukraine for its attack on Russia, which Moscow called a “special military operation.”
The sanctions would include a complete ban on oil imports within six months, but measures have not yet been taken with Hungary, one of the most vocal critics of the plan.
Iran, meanwhile, is having a hard time selling its crude oil as more Russian barrels are available.
Iran’s crude exports to China have plummeted since the start of the Ukraine war because Beijing favored massive discounts on Russian barrels, storing about 40 million barrels of Iranian oil in tankers at sea in Asia and looking for buyers. (Reporting by Scott Disavino; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)