In early Asian trade on Thursday, oil prices experienced a slight decline following the release of weak US job openings data. The data indicated cooling economic conditions, which could potentially affect demand. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) US crude dipped by 14 cents, settling at $80.47 a barrel at 2241 GMT. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Brent crude futures saw a marginal increase of 5 cents, or 0.1%, closing at $84.99 a barrel.
Earlier in the week, oil prices had surged by over 6% after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia—collectively known as OPEC+—announced voluntary production cuts. However, the impact of these cuts was soon offset by the latest US job openings data from February, which displayed the lowest level in nearly two years. This suggests that the labor market is cooling, potentially affecting oil demand.
According to ANZ Research, “Crude oil’s rally paused as it battled the headwinds created by the weak economic data. This offset more positive fundamentals.” Despite these headwinds, Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has increased the prices of its flagship crude for Asian buyers for the third consecutive month, indicating growing demand in the region. ANZ Research noted that this “points to further strength in demand in the region.”
In addition, US crude inventories experienced a larger-than-expected decrease last week, falling by 3.7 million barrels—1.5 million barrels more than initially forecasted. Similarly, gasoline and distillate stocks also saw greater-than-anticipated declines, dropping by 4.1 million barrels and 3.6 million barrels, respectively. Despite these drawdowns, the weak US job openings data continues to cast a shadow on the oil market, ultimately dampening the impact of positive developments in oil production and inventories.