SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell in Asia on Monday as investors looked for further clues about the health of the Chinese and US economies, the world’s top crude consumers.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for November delivery eased 48 cents to $45.22 and Brent crude for November dipped 50 cents to $48.10 in afternoon trade.
Markets were rocked last week by news that a key gauge of manufacturing activity in China fell to a six-and-a-half-year low in September, the latest sign of a slowdown in growth for the world’s second-biggest economy.
“For most commodities, a ‘hard landing’ in China would be a far greater threat than a gradual tightening from the Fed,” research firm Capital Economics said.
It said the manufacturing data was likely to improve over the remainder of the year.
The US Federal Reserve held off raising interest rates during its September meeting, but on Thursday Fed chief Janet Yellen said she still expected a lift-off this year and that concerns about weaker global growth likely would not affect that plan.
Focus this week “is likely to remain on China and particularly the equity market, which has recently shown signs of stabilizing, and on the US ahead of the employment report on Friday,” Capital Economics said in a market commentary.
A rise in interest rates would likely boost the US currency, making dollar-priced oil more expensive for holders of weaker units, hurting demand.
Prices are also under pressure owing to the prospect of Iranian oil returning to the oversupplied market following a landmark nuclear deal with major world powers reached in July.
Under the agreement, the West will lift crippling economic sanctions if Iran curbs its nuclear ambitions, allowing the country to increase its oil exports. Tehran has denied Western claims it is aiming to build an atomic bomb.
Prices are expected to be volatile during the week, analysts said.
“With no major economic data announcements during the week except for the US unemployment rate due next Friday, crude oil prices will continue to seesaw,” said Sanjeev Gupta, who heads the Asia Pacific oil and gas practice at professional services firm EY.