(MT Newswires) – Crude prices ended Friday’s session lower, but ultimately closed the week in positive territory following solid import data from China. Crude oil imports by China reached 10.23 million bpd in February despite a week-long holiday in the month, posting a gain of nearly 22% from the same month last year, customs data on Friday showed. The world’s top crude oil importer bought 39.23 million metric tons of crude oil in February, marking the fourth straight month imports held above 10 million bpd. For the first two months of 2019, crude oil imports are up 12.4% from a year ago at 81.83 million tonnes, or 10.12 million bpd. China’s refined fuel exports rose 9.4% from a year ago to 3.81 million metric tons while imports fell 10% from a year ago to 2.35 million metric tons. Meanwhile, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies have pledged to continue with 1.2 million barrels per day of output cuts for at least the first six months of the year, supporting prices along with US sanctions on OPEC members Iran and Venezuela. Back home, the Energy Information Administration’s weekly report showed that US crude stockpiles surged by 7.1 million barrels over a week to March 1, about 4% higher than the average at this time of the year. This also compares with the American Petroleum Institute’s report that US crude oil stocks soared 7.3 million barrels last week to 451.5 million barrels. Finally, energy services firm Baker Hughes (BHGE) reported Friday that the number of oil rigs operating in the US sank by nine to 834 rigs — the lowest level since early May. A year ago, the US oil count was at 796.
Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery rose 0.52% for the week, settling at $56.07 per barrel at the end of Friday’s session. In other energy futures, gasoline was up 4.32% for the week, settling at $1.80 per gallon on Friday. Natural gas for April delivery rose 0.63% on the week at $2.87 per 1 million British thermal unit.
The SummerHaven Dynamic Commodity Index Total Return Index (SDCITR) was 0.93% lower for the week, which narrowed from a decline of 1.31% in the previous week.
Gold wrapped up the Friday session higher, settling at $1,299.30; for the week, it declined 0.40%. The yellow metal hit a six-week low of $1,280.80 on Thursday, then rallied higher following the European Central Bank announcement, which indicated no rate hikes until 2020. The ECB also cut its growth forecast to 1.1% in 2019, down from 1.7% projections. The gains were strengthened further on Friday as disappointing February jobs data put pressure on equities and drove traders to safe-haven markets like gold. The government reported that February nonfarm payrolls increased by 20,000 — the smallest gain in 17 months — versus the Econoday estimate of 175,000. On the other hand, copper closed Friday’s session at $2.89 per pound, slipping 0.85% for the week. The red metal’s losses were weighed by the latest data out of China, which showed that the country’s imports of refined metal plunged even as concentrate shipments rose. China’s imports of unwrought copper in February fell to 311,000 tonnes from a bumper 479,000 tonnes last month. This was the lowest monthly total since March 2018.
In agriculture commodities, grains ended the week lower: corn fell 2.15% in the week and settled at $3.64 per bushel in Friday’s session; wheat sank 4.10% and settled at $4.40 per bushel at the end of Friday’s session; and soybeans were down 1.70% for the week, and closed Friday in negative territory at $8.96 per bushel. This was the biggest weekly fall for soybeans in nearly two months, following a Reuters report that Chinese state-owned firms bought at least 500,000 tonnes of US soybeans on Thursday. Citing two traders with knowledge of the deals, the report said the soybeans were for shipment from Pacific Northwest grain export terminals from June to September. Other commodities were also lower: sugar had a weekly decline of 3.49% and settled at a price of $1.22 per pound on Friday; coffee was around $0.99 per pound at Friday’s close, down 2.20% for the week; and cocoa fell 0.63% lower for the week and closed Friday’s session at $2,198 per tonne.
The SummerHaven Dynamic Agriculture Index Total Return Index (SDAITR) was down 0.94% for the week, compared with a decline of 1.34% in the prior week.
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