Wednesday, July 29, 2009

>Crude falls on CFTC, weak demand concerns

Singapore - Crude futures fell by more than $1 a barrel in Asia Wednesday as uncertainty over potential curbs on speculative trades and weak demand concerns resurfaced.

Losses in China's equity markets widened in late afternoon trading, as mix of bad news about profits and weak commodity prices sparked a broad sell-off in local bourses.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in September hovered near one-week low of $65.40 a barrel. It traded at $65.89 a barrel at 0247 GMT, down $1.33 in the Globex electronic session.

September Brent crude on London's ICE Futures exchange fell $1.07 to $68.81 a barrel.

The chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Tuesday said he believes the agency must "seriously consider" setting strict limits on traders who place bets on energy contracts.

The Wall Street Journal said that the CFTC would in August reverse the findings of last year's study, more closely linking speculators to the rise in prices.

"The uncertainty related to this announcement is really impacting on market activity at the moment," said Yingxi Yu, analyst at Barclays Capital. "Until we get more clarity from the hearing, the market is likely to find a lot of downside pressure."

Demand concerns resurfaced as U.S. consumer confidence for July was weaker than expected.

Comments from BP PLC (BP) Chief Executive Tony Hayward Tuesday also suggested that oil prices are up on speculation - not necessarily on fundamentals, Mike Sander from Sander Capital Advisors said in a note.

U.S. crude-oil inventory data due Wednesday from the Department of Energy may shed more light.

Crude-oil inventories are expected to fall by 400,000 barrels, according to the mean of seven forecasts in a Dow Jones Newswires survey of analysts.

Gasoline inventories are seen decreasing by 400,000 barrels while stocks of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, are expected to rise by 500,000 barrels.

Barcap's Yu doesn't expect the data to have a large impact on crude prices.

If the stocks data are positive, showing a fall in crude, but a rise in products, the response may be muted, Yu said, but the reverse will add to the downside.

Fundamentals aside, some analysts called Tuesday's sell-off a technical correction after a nearly three-week rally.

"It may be in for one more push higher," said Jonathan Kornafel, director for Asia at Hudson Capital Energy in Singapore.

September Brent crude on London's ICE Futures exchange fell 44 cents to $69.44 a barrel.

At 0249 GMT, oil product futures were lower.

Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock for August - the benchmark gasoline contract - fell 162 points to 174.85 cents a gallon, while August heating oil traded at 189 cents, 206 points lower.

ICE gasoil for August changed hands at $561.75 a metric ton, down $3 from Tuesday's settlement.