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Oil holds above $70 on geopolitical tension

29 March 2018

BRENT and WTI crude oil futures dipped on Monday as concerns of a looming trade dispute between the United States and China weighed on global markets.

Trading of the new oil futures contracts for September settlement started on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange at 440.20 yuan ($69.70) per barrel, reports Chinese daily the South China Morning Post. While global stockpiles are tightening in a sign that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies' production cuts are working, fears still remain that surging US production could thwart those efforts.

State-run Sinopec Corp, Asia's top refiner, said last month it expected to boost its US crude oil imports this year to more than 10 million tonnes, or 200,000 bpd. The market launched on Monday with strong volumes and activity from western traders and Chinese majors.

China is the world's second-largest oil consumer and in 2017 overtook the United States as the biggest importer of crude oil.

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Crude Oil prices declined on Wednesday, with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) trading below $65 and Brent back below $70 per barrel.

The first ever yuan-denominated crude-oil futures had a successful first day of trading yesterday, as China looks to expand its influence in the Asian oil sphere by establishing a new local benchmark.

Beijing has set a daily foreign-exchange quota of US$5 billion and is likely to raise the cap in the future to attract more overseas traders to invest in the contracts.

Citing Li Qiang, director of the research center under the Xinhu Futures, the media outlet suggested that the launch of China's own oil futures could be seen as Beijing's attempt to open the country's commodity market to foreign investors.

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Brent has risen by more than 5 percent this month while WTI is up over 4 percent.

Skeptics argue that hurdles such as capital controls, regulatory risk and market intervention in other Chinese securities have made investors cynical about the prospect of Shanghai futures becoming a regional price-setter.

Crude oil futures slipped on Monday, but losses were capped by a rebound in stock markets and escalating Saudi-Iran tensions.

Analysts had been expecting little change after last week saw a surprise draw. Trading in futures from apple to steel has exploded in recent years across the nation's three commodity exchanges, prompting regulators to repeatedly step in to quell fears of a bubble.

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At the end of afternoon session, Shanghai prices were up 3.34 percent at 430.2 yuan, with 40,656 lots traded.

Oil holds above $70 on geopolitical tension