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Oil prices steady as markets weigh supply tensions, China economic recovery

Oil rig and pump of H&P Rig 488 in Stanton, Texas, on June 8, 2023.

Suzanne Cordeiro | AFP | Getty Images

Oil prices were little changed on Tuesday as worries about China’s economic recovery prospects offset supply concerns stemming from tensions in the Middle East and Ukrainian attacks on Russian refineries.

Brent futures for August delivery rose 7 cents, or 0.08%, to $86.06 a barrel at 0015 GMT, ahead of the contract’s expiry later this week. The more actively traded September contract, rose 8 cents, or 0.09% to $85.23.

U.S. crude futures climbed 11 cents, or 0.13%, to $81.74 a barrel.

Both benchmarks rose about 3% last week, marking two straight weeks of gains.

But there have since been growing concerns about the recovery prospects in the world’s second-largest economy.

Retailers in China are facing a daunting near-term future after a disappointing mid-year online shopping festival.

Consumers in China, the world’s biggest oil importer, have been reluctant to spend amid concerns about their personal wealth fueled by a real estate slump, stunted wage growth and high youth unemployment, putting at risk China achieving its stated economic growth goal of “around 5%” this year.

Meanwhile, two Israeli air strikes targeting aid supplies killed at least 11 Palestinians in Gaza on Monday, medics said, as Israeli tanks pushed deeper into Rafah in the south and fought their way back into areas in the north they had already subdued months ago.

More than eight months into the fighting, international mediation backed by the United States has so far failed to bring a ceasefire agreement. Hamas says any agreement must end the war, while Israel says it will agree only temporary pauses in fighting until Hamas is eradicated.

In another major conflict, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that his country has hit more than 30 Russian oil processing and storage facilities, though he did not provide a time period.

In the most recent attack on June 21, Ukrainian drones hit four refineries, including the Ilsky refinery, one of the main fuel producers in southern Russia.

EU countries on Monday agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine, including a ban on reloading Russian liquefied natural gas in the EU for further shipment to third countries.

In the U.S., San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Mary Daly said on Monday she does not believe the U.S. central bank should cut rates before policymakers are confident that inflation is headed toward 2%.

Delays to interest rate cut would keep the cost of borrowing higher for longer, which could reduce economic activity and hurt oil demand.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles was expected to have fallen by 3 million barrels in the week to June 21, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday. Gasoline stocks were also expected to have declined, while distillate inventories likely rose last week.

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