Oil trades below $69 as investors weigh mixed inventories report

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Oil traded below $69 a barrel as investors tried to gauge demand growth in the world’s biggest economy following conflicting data on US stockpiles.

Futures in New York were little changed Thursday after rebounding 1 percent in the previous session from a 1.5% drop. Prices have been wavering after government data showed a surprise gain in nationwide crude inventories, while gasoline held in U.S. storage tanks dropped by the most since May on the back of robust fuel demand. Meanwhile, an OPEC committee meeting provided little insight on how output quotas will be split between the group.

Oil has lost about 7% this month over concern an escalating trade conflict between the US and China could jeopardize global economic growth and energy demand. While worries remain over potential supply losses in Venezuela and Iran as well as sporadic disruptions in Libya, investors are waiting to see how an agreement reached last month by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allied producers to raise output will impact global oil supplies.

“Refinery utilization rates in the US have been kept at almost full capacity and it will gradually fall with planned maintenance, which will lead to a build-up in overall crude stockpiles, while gasoline and distillate inventories shrink,” Lim Jaekyun, a commodities analyst at KB Securities Co., said by phone in Seoul. “OPEC has been seen raising output since June and this will slowly resolve risks we see on the supply side.” — Bloomberg