Oil Falls on Rate Hike Worries, Russian Export Flows

January 31, 2023Updated: January 31, 2023

LONDON—Oil prices fell on Tuesday as the prospect of further interest rate increases and ample Russian crude flows outweighed demand recovery expectations from China.

March Brent crude futures fell by $1.01, or 1.19 percent, to $83.89 per barrel by 0920 GMT. The March contract expires on Tuesday and the more heavily traded April contract fell by 90 cents, or 1.07 percent, to $83.60.

Likewise, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped 92 cents, or 1.18 percent, to $76.98 a barrel.

“Central banks and the OPEC+ producer group will be in action in the next few days. Interest rate decisions will shed some light on the prospects of economic and oil demand growth,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

Investors expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday, with half-point increases coming from the Bank of England and European Central Bank the following day.

Higher rates could slow the global economy and weaken oil demand.

Further bearish sentiment followed news that Russia’s oil loadings from its Ust-Luga port are expected to rise at the beginning of February, despite western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

Price falls were cushioned by signs of potentially healthy demand coming from China, with the country’s official purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which measures manufacturing activity, rising in January from December, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised its 2023 global growth outlook slightly due to “surprisingly resilient” demand in the United States and Europe, an easing of energy costs, and the reopening of China’s economy after Beijing abandoned its strict COVID-19 restrictions.

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