WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Nearby delivery month oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude on the Intercontinental Exchange slumped in midmorning trade Thursday with WTI September futures falling as much as 2.5% ahead of expiration Thursday afternoon, weighed down by a rebound in the U.S. dollar and concerns over faltering demand recovery after U.S. gasoline consumption reversed down and crude oil stockpiles declined less than forecasted.
Further weighing on sentiment, U.S. jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 15 were worse than expected at 1.106 million after falling below 1 million for the first time since mid-March the prior week. An unexpected jump in first-time unemployment claims is a worrying sign for the nascent recovery in domestic labor market. Economists mostly forecasted a second straight week with fewer than 1 million claims.
The Federal Reserve said in its July meeting minutes released Wednesday that any rebound of the labor market will depend on a reopening of businesses, which in turn depends on the path of the virus and what we do to contain it.
U.S. stock futures fell Thursday, a day after the S&P 500 briefly touched another record high, with the Dow Jones Industrial retreating 150 points and contracts tied to S&P 500 down 0.4%.
The U.S. Dollar Index reversed higher Thursday, clawing back 0.33% against the basket of foreign currencies at 93.185, further pressing the WTI contract. U.S. benchmark for September delivery dropped below $42 a barrel and next-month delivery October contract widened its premium more than 35 cents before assuming front-month position later Thursday afternoon. Spot-month international benchmark Brent crude declined 1.04 cents to trade near $44.35 barrel (bbl). ULSD September futures dropped back 2.63 cents or 2% to $1.2248 gallon and front-month RBOB September contract plunged 3.66 cents to $1.2550 gallon.
U.S. crude-oil stockpiles fell a fourth straight week through Aug. 14, according to the Energy Information Administration, although the drop was less than forecasted at 1.6 million bbl. The data also revealed gasoline demand in the U.S. declined 253,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the previous week to 8.630 million bpd, reversing most of the prior week's surge. Consumption of distillate fuels fell for the first time in four weeks, EIA reported, sliding 609,000 bpd or 15.8% to 3.253 million bpd. Those figures are worrying signs for demand outlook as economic recovery stalled and millions remain out of work.
Separately, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and partners pledged to reach a full compliance with the ongoing 7.7 million bpd supply agreement by the end of September. The group pressed members such as Nigeria and Iraq to do more to meet their quotas after they exceeded them between May and July.
Liubov Georges can be reached at liubov.georges@dtn
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