Oil futures headed sideways on Friday (14 October) after figures pointing to a drop in crude supplies negated data pointing to a stockpile build-up in the US, thereby triggering another round of price swings in the market.
At 2:56pm BST, the West Texas Intermediate front month futures contract was back above $50 per barrel, but down 0.02% or a cent at $50.43, while Brent was 0.37% or 19 cents lower at $51.84 per barrel, as both benchmarks alternated between upticks and slides for a second successive session.
Overnight, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude oil inventories rose by 4.9 million barrels stateside to a total of 474 million barrels in the week through to 7 October, beating a Reuters analysts' poll predicting a rise by 300,000 barrels by a considerable distance.
However, supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma – the delivery point for US oil futures – actually declined by 1.32 million barrels; the lowest level on record for 2016.
Analysts at JBC Energy said: "The coming weeks will likely see further seasonal US crude stockpile build-ups as refinery maintenance depresses crude runs, although continually strong distillate draws should limit the impact on crude prices."
Meanwhile, doubts continue to persist over how Opec would implement its proposed production cut. With tacit support from Russia, the cartel agreed to limit its production to a range of 32.5m to 33m barrels per day (bpd) on 28 September but will only spell out the nature of the cuts on 30 November. Yet, Opec's internal data suggests it expects additional production from the troubled hotspots of Nigeria and Libya, along with that of Iraq.
Mixed data on China, the world's leading importer of crude oil, also contributed to mixed sentiment. The country's exports fell 10%, far worse than expected. However, the sharp rise in China's inflation for September – at 1.9% year-on-year in September – somewhat countered the anxiety from the dismal trade data.
FXTM research analyst Lukman Otunuga said there was unease in the crude market over China's pending third quarter GDP report, and whether the world's second largest economy could maintain its current growth.
"With the developments in China gripping the global economy, there could be an increasing focus on its data as the nation transitions away from manufacturing towards services," Otunuga added.
Away from the oil market, precious metals stemmed the week's declines but also failed to build any convincing momentum to the upside. At 3:02pm BST, Comex gold futures contract for December delivery was up a mere 0.19% or $2.40 to $1,260.00 an ounce, higher intraday but well below $1,300-plus levels seen last month.
Josh Saul, chief executive officer of The Pure Gold Company said, the despite the previous trading week's drop in prices, investors were keeping their faith in physical gold.
"Our clients are worried about the implications of Deutsche Bank, the US presidential election and Brexit deadlines, and feel more comfortable with a certain percentage of their wealth hedged in physical gold."