Asian stocks subdued, oil near five-month low on U.S. inventory build

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks stuttered on Thursday, dogged by the uncertainty over an intractable U.S.-China trade dispute, while oil prices flirted with five-month lows thanks to higher U.S. crude inventories and a bleaker demand outlook.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ticked down 0.1%, slipping from a one-month high touched earlier this week, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.3%.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 lost 0.20% on Wednesday.

A bigger mover overnight was oil, which tumbled 4% to their lowest settlements in nearly five months, pressured by another unexpected rise in U.S. crude stockpiles and by a dimming outlook for global oil demand.

Brent crude futures barely moved at $60.01 in early trade after a 3.7% slide on Wednesday to $59.97 a barrel, the international benchmark’s lowest close since Jan. 28.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures firmed slightly to $51.29 per barrel, compared to the previous day’s close of 50.72 a barrel, its weakest settlement since Jan. 14.

“It is a bit of mystery that oil prices are so low when global stock prices remain relatively supported. But one thing is certain. Weaker oil prices will curb inflation and boost rate cut expectations,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

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