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Oil slips on forecast for higher U.S. crude inventories

Wave cycle shows oil retracing to below $80.

October 5, 2010 9:44 by

Oil slipped on Tuesday on forecasts for gains in U.S. crude and gasoline inventories, a stronger dollar, falling equity markets and technical signals showing Monday’s rally to a two-month high was overdone.

U.S. crude for November shed 12 cents to $81.35 a barrel at 0259 GMT, more than $1 below a two-month high of $82.38 touched on Monday. ICE Brent for November slipped 25 cents to $83.03.

“Investors have recently become more optimistic, but the oil market is nearly at overbought levels,” said Serene Lim, a Singapore-based oil analyst at ANZ, referring to the relative strength index reaching levels close to 70 in the past few days, a technical signal that prices may be due for a correction.

“It could be more cautious ahead,” Lim said. “For the release of API numbers today, the market is expecting (crude) inventories to rise because of a rebound in imports and refinery demand slowing down because of the maintenance season in the U.S.”

U.S. crude oil inventories probably rose last week by 600,000 barrels, while gasoline stocks were expected to have gained 100,000 barrels as refinery utilisation dropped, a Reuters poll ahead of weekly inventory reports showed on Monday. [EIA/S]

Industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) will issue its weekly inventory report on Tuesday at 2030 GMT. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) will follow with government data on Wednesday.

But supplies of distillates including heating oil and diesel were projected to have declined by 800,000 barrels as demand remained strong, particularly for diesel, a major component of this inventory segment, according to the poll.

“As we go into the heating oil season, there could be potential to drive the market even higher,” Lim said.

“Any surprise of better-than-expected U.S. economic data coming out, including today’s ISM non-manufacturing PMI and Friday’s non-farm payrolls will move the market even higher.”

Friday sees the release of key monthly U.S. employment data.

U.S. economic indicators have so far this week been mixed. Pending sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose more than expected in August to a four-month high, but new U.S. factory orders fell slightly more than expected.

A crippling strike at France’s top oil port, the world’s third-largest, will continue on Tuesday and some refineries are expected to run out of crude supplies in about a week, unions and industry officials said.

The upper Houston Ship Channel should reopen by Tuesday night, restoring crude flows to four refiners in Texas holding 4.9 percent of U.S. capacity before their supplies run low, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday.

Asian equities had a weak start on Tuesday, while global equity markets fell a day earlier on lingering concerns about the global economy and the burden of debt in some euro zone countries.

The euro on Monday fell from its highest level versus the dollar in more than six months amid renewed concerns about the financial viability of euro zone banks, prompting investors to cut overly bullish bets on the euro. The greenback continued to strengthen on Tuesday, up 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies.

Iraq raised its proven oil reserves figure by a quarter on Monday in a bid to match the clout of leading producer Saudi Arabia and strengthen its case for OPEC to grant it a higher output quota.

(Editing by Ed Lane)

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