Oil prices flirt with gains and losses as investors await further clues on demand

© Reuters.– Oil prices rose Wednesday, though traders had to contend with swings between gains and losses ahead of fresh clues on inventories and the health of the global economy at time when demand and geopolitical worries persist.

At 13:50 ET (18:50 GMT), rose 0.7% to $82.91 a barrel, while gained 1% to $77.77 a barrel. 

PMI data, Fed minutes awaited for more demand cues

Market focus remains on a string of upcoming economic cues from the U.S., eurozone and Japan, due later this week, for more signals on the world’s largest economies.

The  are due later on Wednesday, and are expected to offer more insight into the Fed’s plans to trim interest rates this year.

The central bank had largely shot down expectations of early interest rate cuts during the meeting, with the prospect of higher-for-longer U.S. rates presenting some demand headwinds to oil markets, especially as economic growth cools in the coming months.

Focus was also on purchasing managers index data for February from several major economies, due on Thursday, for more cues on the potential trajectory of demand. 

The readings come amid growing anxiety over slowing oil demand in 2024, especially after the International Energy Agency lowered its forecast for annual oil demand earlier in February. 

Fresh crude inventory data eyed

Following the Energy Information Administration’s report last week of a much larger build in U.S. crude stockpiles, investors will look to the due later on Wednesday for further insight into domestic supplies.

The report will arrive ahead of the U.S. due Thursday.

Middle East tensions remain in play

But any major downside in oil prices was largely limited by persistent concerns over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, which appears to be disrupting some supplies.

The U.S. vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, pointing to little signs of deescalation in the Israel-Hamas war. The veto was Washington’s third such move in recent months. 

A string of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea by the Yemeni Houthis also pointed to continued disruptions in shipping activity through the region, which are expected to potentially delay some oil deliveries in Asia and Europe. 

(Peter Nurse, Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)