Oil prices tumble alongside global equities amid fears about China turbulence

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A previous version of this report included an incorrect time reference for oil’s last lengthy winning streak. U.S. oil prices are on track to break its longest winning streak since February 2019.

The Tungsten Explorer, a drillship to explore for oil and gas off the coast of Lebanon, is seen in the background in Dbayeh north of the capital Beirut during the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 15, 2020.

AFP/Getty Images

Oil futures fell sharply on Friday, with U.S. prices set to break the longest winning streak in more than a year over worries about China growth and fresh friction between Washington and Beijing.

Oil prices declined “thanks to growing doubts over the strength of China’s economic recovery, while rising tensions between the Beijing and Washington hit the commodity further,” said Lukman Otunuga, senior research analyst at FXTM.

“Although oil may find support as economies relax lockdown measures, upside gains are destined to be capped by rising fears over slowing global growth and geopolitical tensions,” he told MarketWatch.

“Looking at the technical picture, WTI Crude could slip back towards $24 if $30 gives way,” he said.

July West Texas Intermediate oil
dropped $1.19, or 3.5%, to $32.73 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract posted a gain for a sixth straight session—the longest since February 2019, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Prices rose 1.3% Thursday to settle at $33.91—the highest since March 10, based on the front-month contracts. For the week, the U.S. benchmark traded more than 9% higher.

Global benchmark Brent crude for July delivery
dropped $1.42, or 3.9%, to $34.64 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, with prices set for a weekly climb of over 5%. The contract rose 0.9% to settle at $36.06 a barrel on Thursday, the highest settlement since March 10.

Investors were rattled by concerns of fresh unrest in Hong Kong after news the Chinese government is considering a sweeping national security law that could rein in the territory’s autonomy. President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that the U.S. would react “strongly” toward those moves on Hong Kong. Last year saw increasingly violent protests in the financial hub, though the coronavirus outbreak slowed some of that activity.

Against that backdrop, global equities and U.S. benchmark stock indexes declined. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 111 points to 24,362 in Friday dealings. Investors may also be wary of holding onto perceived riskier assets such as stocks and oil ahead of the long holiday weekend in the U.S. and U.K.

Read: Everything investors need to know about Memorial Day trading hours and closures

Meanwhile, China’s top economic official said on Friday that the country won’t set a growth target for 2020, and pledged to spend more to repair economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

Rounding out action in the energy market, June natural gas
edged up by 0.1% to $1.711 per million British thermal units, poised for a weekly gain of around 4%.

June gasoline
fell 4.6% to 99.70 cents a gallon, trading around 2.8% higher for the week, and June heating oil
dropped 3.2% to 95.68 cents a gallon, on track for a weekly rise of roughly 4%.

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