WTI, Brent Futures Edge Up Friday

Brian L Milne
By  Brian L. Milne , DTN Refined Fuels Editor

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Oil futures nearest delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Brent crude contract on the Intercontinental Exchange edged higher in early trade Friday, with all contracts on track for the second consecutive week of hefty gains, spurred by hopes of imminent demand recovery as more countries move to reopen their economies and relax social distancing guidelines after weeks of coronavirus-triggered lockdown, although accumulated supply overhang continues to limit the upside.

Australia and France became the latest countries to announce Friday staged easing of coronavirus restrictions that were put in place to mitigate the pandemic spread but also shattered industries and sapped demand for fuels.

Europe has been hard hit with an economic recession, with latest data indicating a double-digit contraction in industrial output from France and Germany, two of Eurozone's largest economies.

Eurozone gross domestic product is now expected to decline 15% in the second quarter following a 3.8% contraction in the first three months of the year.

In the United States, the world's largest oil consumer, unemployment rate is now estimated to hover around 16%, the highest since the 1940s. In early March, that figure was just under 3.5%, a 50-year low, before "stay at home" directives were issued by most U.S. states.

Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the latest employment figures for April, a full month of quarantine, this morning at 8:30 a.m. EDT. The economy is now seen to have lost 22 million jobs throughout the month, with some in the market speculating the actual unemployment rate could be closer to 20%.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback's moves against rival currencies, eased to 99.65 in overnight trading.

Stocks on Wall Street are set for a higher open Friday, with investors seen to have already priced in an ugly employment situation. Dow Jones Industrial futures gained more than 250 points and S&P 500 posted a 0.6% advance.

Overnight reports indicate top trade representatives from the United States and China held their first talks since January on Thursday, with both sides hailing constructive dialogue on the Phase One deal.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have become increasingly chilly since the accord was signed in January, with Trump blaming China for not being forthright about the coronavirus, while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said COVID-19 escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.

In early trading, NYMEX June West Texas Intermediate were modestly higher to trade near $24 barrel (bbl) after trading at a $26.74 bbl four-week high on the spot continuous chart prior session. International crude benchmark Brent contract for July delivery edged $0.29 higher to $29.75 bbl.

NYMEX June ULSD futures moved up $0.092 higher to $0.8463 gallon and NYMEX June RBOB contact reversed down 0.82 cents to trade at 0.9231 gallon after trading at an eight-week spot high 0.9314 gallon Thursday.

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

Brian Milne