Oil slips as trade dispute outweighs US stock decline

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LONDON (Aug 23): Oil prices slipped on Thursday as an escalating trade dispute between the United States and China outweighed the bullish impact of a decline in US commercial crude inventories.

Benchmark Brent crude oil was down 35 cents a barrel at US$74.43 by 0935 GMT. US light crude was 10 cents lower at US$67.76.

The trade dispute between the United States and China deepened on Thursday with the imposition of 25% tariffs on US$16 billion worth of each other's goods.

The world's two largest economies have now slapped tariffs on a combined US$100 billion of products since early July, with more in the pipeline, adding to risks to global economic growth.

Washington is holding hearings this week on a proposed list of another US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports to face duties, to which China is almost certain to respond.

"These (overall) measures are expected to shave up to 0.3-0.5 percentage points from China's real GDP growth in 2019," said rating agency Moody's Investor Service. "For the US ... trade restrictions will trim off about one quarter of a percentage point from real GDP growth to 2.3% in 2019."

Oil demand is closely linked to economic activity and the trade dispute has already led analysts to trim their forecasts for future energy consumption.

But while the outlook for oil demand growth may be moderating, some markets are tight.

US commercial crude oil inventories fell by 5.8 million barrels in the week to Aug 17 to 408.36 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its weekly report.

"This week's report was bullish for crude," said Societe Generale oil analyst Michael Wittner. "Crude stocks drew due to sharply lower crude imports and near-record refinery crude runs."

Meanwhile, US oil production is rising as shale output increases, reaching 11 million barrels per day last week, the EIA report said.

That means the world's three top producers, Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia, now all pump around 11 million bpd, meeting a third of global demand.