Oil Futures Mixed Amid US-China Talks

WASHINGTON, D.C. (DTN) -- Nearest delivered oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude on the Intercontinental Exchange settled mixed on Thursday, with Brent briefly topping $70 barrels (bbl) intraday, as U.S.-China trade talks intensify.

West Texas Intermediate May contract moved $0.36 lower to settle at $62.10 bbl, holding near a $62.99 five-month high on the spot continuous chart, while ICE Brent June futures settled $0.09 higher at $69.40 bbl five-month spot high, reaching a $70.03 intraday high. Nymex ULSD May contract settled up 0.66 cents at $2.0134 gallon, while RBOB May futures dipped 1.13 cents to finish the session at $1.9399 gallon, reversing off a $1.9558 one-week high.

Thurday's mixed session comes amid reports U.S. President Donald Trump is not expected to announce a summit date with China's President Xi Jinping Thursday afternoon when he meets the country's vice premier Liu He. According to the latest Reuters' report, trade delegations are still in the process of contentious talks to reach an agreement that would give Beijing until 2025 to meet commitments on U.S. commodity purchases and allow U.S. companies a greater access to the Chinese market.

Trump Administration has been pressing China for more than a year to make fundamental changes in its industrial policies, including reducing subsidies, protecting intellectual property rights and ending pressure on U.S. companies to transfer technology to their Chinese counterparts.

Stakes are high during the final stages of negotiations, as failure to reach an agreement could rattle financial markets and strain trade relationship between the world's two largest economies.

U.S. major indexes mostly moved higher Thursday, with Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 166.5 points to 26,384.63, while S&P 500 Index gained 0.21%, as investors continued to monitor the final stretch of U.S.-China trade talks. U.S. dollar firmed 0.263 to 96.925 in afternoon index trading, pressuring WTI futures following Wednesday's reported large build in commercial crude stocks.

RBOB futures moved lower ahead of Friday morning's employment report from the U.S. Labor Department following sluggish employment data in released Wednesday pointing a slowing domestic job market. ADP estimated on Wednesday private payrolls expanded by a disappointing 129,000 in March that was well below consensus for 165,000 in the profiled month. U.S. Labor Department will release its monthly jobs report 8:30 a.m. ET Friday, expected to show nonfarm payrolls expanded by 170,000 in March versus the 186,000 average over the prior three months. National unemployment rate is expected to remain at 3.8%.

Liubov Georges can be reached at liubov.georges@dtn.com