Crude oil prices fell back to $77 a barrel in the US on 29 July, down from highs near $80 earlier in the week as weakening economic sentiment and an unexpected jump in inventory levels in the world’s biggest economy trimmed recent gains.
The US’ benchmark September West Texas Intermediate contract was trading at $77.27 a barrel on 29 July, up from $76.50 a barrel a week earlier, but down from the $79 a barrel it had hit on 26 July.
In Europe, the September Brent contract was trading at $76.39 a barrel. This was up from the $75.50 it had hit seven days before, but down from highs above $78 a barrel, also on 26 July.
The average price of the oil cartel Opec’s 12 member states export crudes was $73.36 a barrel on 28 July, the last day data was available at the time of writing. Largely unchanged from the $73.16 it traded at a week before.
Analysts at Barclays Capital, the investment arm of the UK bank, attribute the dip in prices to the release of data by the US’ Federal Reserve and Energy Information Administration.
In a 28 July report, the Federal Reserve said that the US economy had witnessed weak growth in May and June, with some sectors contracting.
Meanwhile, oil inventories grew by 7.3 million barrels during the seven days to 23 July, with stocks totalling 360.8 million barrels at the end of the week.
“The main driver for prices, albeit a rather on-and-off one, remains the skittish state of macroeconomic sentiment, which takes little notice of the strength of oil demand and recovery for that matter,” the Barclays analysts say. “Clearly, elements of this bearishness have their links to the previous recession, which are magnifying the reactions to anything that is softer than expected, weighing towards tail-end risks, and while we do think fundamentals will eventually triumph, it may take a while before the ghosts from the previous crisis go away entirely.”