Writes about the intersection of corporate oil and climate policy. Has reported on politics, economics, migration, nuclear diplomacy and business from Cairo, Vienna and elsewhere.
LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) – Oil prices steadied on Thursday, having hit their lowest since late 2021 earlier this week, as strong U.S. jobs data countered bearish signals from Fed Chair Jerome Powell highlighting banking sector risks and swelling U.S. crude stockpiles.
Brent crude futures were up 1 cent, or 0.01%, at $76.70 a barrel at 1324 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) rose 4 cents, or 0.1%, to $70.94, making good on some deeper losses earlier in the session.
Powell said on Wednesday that banking industry stress could trigger a credit crunch, with “significant” implications for an economy that U.S. central bank officials projected would slow even more this year than previously thought.
The Bank of England on Thursday followed the Federal Reserve and the Swiss National Bank in hiking interest rates, fighting against inflation in the face of the instability in the global banking system this month.
Weighing on prices, U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose unexpectedly last week to their highest in nearly two years, latest data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed.
Crude inventories (USOILC=ECI) rose in the week to March 17 by 1.1 million barrels to 481.2 million barrels, the highest since May 2021. Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected a 1.6-million-barrel drop.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits edged down last week from an already historically low level, showing no signs yet that the recent financial market turbulence is having an impact on the economy.
The dollar slid to a seven-week low against a basket of other currencies, providing a price floor for oil as a weaker greenback makes oil cheaper for holders of other currencies.
Also supportive, Goldman Sachs said on Thursday that demand from China, the world’s biggest oil importer, continued to surge across the commodity complex, with oil demand topping 16 million barrels per day.
The bank forecast Brent to reach $97 a barrel in the second quarter of 2024.
Additional reporting by Jeslyn Lerh
Editing by Mark Potter
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