US oil futures near four-month low on US inventory build-up fears
Major commodities contracts traded sideways as the dollar continued to trade erratically

Leading commodities futures headed sideways on Friday (17 February), as the lack of obvious market drivers and mixed dollar trading sent major commodities contracts sideways.

Oil futures headed marginally lower but benchmarks stayed within recent ranges. At 4:16pm GMT, the Brent front month futures contract was down 0.31% or 17 cents at $55.48 per barrel, while the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was 0.52% or 28 cents lower at $53.06 per barrel.

The market continues to weigh the upside pull of Opec cuts against the downside drag premised on the prospect of higher US crude production.

Analysts at Vienna-based JBC Energy said: "After crude prices rallied in the aftermath of the Opec and non-Opec cuts decision in late November and early December, there does not appear to be much out there to push prices decidedly above the $55 mark. Prompt prices have not seen this kind of stability for several years."

In addition, the dollar – the currency of choice for the commodities market – continues to trade erratically versus major forex crosses, in keeping with a trend that has seen the US currency alternating from losses to gains for much of the month.

Intraday cut-offs at 2:00pm GMT offered a case in point, with the sterling 0.50% lower against the dollar, trading at $1.2425 after climbing above $1.25 in the previous session. Concurrently, the dollar rose 0.22% and 0.16% against the euro and the Swiss franc, trading at 0.9389 euro cents and CHF0.9987 respectively, also climbing 0.43% against its Australian counterpart to AUD$1.3047.

However, its performance against the yen was less positive, as it fell 0.42% to ¥112.76, while it was broadly unchanged against the Canadian dollar, exchanging hands at CAD$1.3082.

FXTM research analyst Lukman Otunuga said dollar bulls remain exhausted: "The visible fact that the Greenback was sold off this week, despite the positive economic data and hawkish comments by US Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on raising interest rates, continues to highlight how the currency has been "Trumped".

"Political risks of the [Donald] Trump administration have left the US currency vulnerable. Markets are still seeking the long sought clarity on the fiscal stimulus and tax cuts while fears of protectionist policies impacting US growth have left participants edgy."

Yet despite higher physical gold purchases by safe-haven seekers, the yellow metal which spiked above $1,240 an ounce overnight, failed to fire-up futures traders' imagination as the weekend approached.

At 4:43pm GMT, the Comex gold futures contract for April delivery was down 0.18% or $2.20 at $1,239.40 an ounce, while spot gold was broadly flat at $1,248.67 an ounce.

Elsewhere, Comex silver was down 0.24% or 4 cents at $18.03 an ounce, while spot platinum was up 1.03% or $10.41 to $1,002.33 an ounce.