Oil extends losses as recession fears mount

TOKYO – Oil prices fell 2 per cent in early trade on Thursday (June 23), extending losses from the previous day, as investors worried that aggressive US interest rate hikes could trigger a recession and dent fuel demand.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell US$2.39, or 2.3 per cent, to US$103.80 a barrel by 8.31am Singapore time. Brent crude futures dropped US$2.24, or 2.0 per cent, to US$109.50 a barrel.

Both benchmarks tumbled around 3 per cent on Wednesday to hit their lowest levels since mid-May.

Investors are continuing to assess how worried they need to be about central banks potentially pushing the world economy into recession as they attempt to curb inflation with interest rate increases.

“Oil remained under pressure as investors were concerned that US rate hikes would stall an economic recovery and dampen fuel demand,” said Kazuhiko Saito, chief analyst at Fujitomi Securities Co Ltd.

“The US and European hedge funds have been off their positions ahead of the end of the second quarter, which is also cooling investor sentiment,” he said, predicting the WTI could fall below US$100 a barrel before the July 4 holiday in the United States.

The Federal Reserve is not trying to engineer a recession to stop inflation but is fully committed to bringing prices under control even if doing so risks an economic downturn, US central bank chief Jerome Powell said on Wednesday.

US President Joe Biden, meanwhile, called on Congress to pass a three-month suspension of the federal gasoline tax to help combat record pump prices and provide temporary relief for American families this summer.

“The news temporarily boosted the oil product prices, but it was later viewed that even if the gasoline tax was suspended, retail prices would remain high, making it difficult to stimulate demand,” Fujitomi’s Saito said.

The US Energy Information Administration said its weekly oil data, which was scheduled for release on Thursday, will be delayed due to systems issues until at least next week.

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