Oil prices fall further after bruising week, econ. data deluge awaited

February 26, 2024 4:55 AM EST Oil prices fell in Asian trade on Monday, extending steep losses from the prior session as markets remained uncertain over demand, especially in the face of higher-for-longer U.S. interest rates.

Focus was now on a string of key economic readings this week, as well as more signals from the Federal Reserve on the path of interest rates.

Concerns over slowing demand, especially after hawkish signals from the Fed, were a key weight on crude prices last week, dragging them about 3% lower on Friday and also wiping out all gains for the week.

Demand concerns largely outweighed signs of continued geopolitical instability in the Middle East, which had offered oil some support earlier in 2024 as markets feared potential supply disruptions.

Brent oil futures expiring in April fell 0.5% to $81.24 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.4% to $75.75 a barrel by 20:14 ET (01:14 GMT).

Inflation, rate cues on tap

Inflation data from several major economies is due this week, including Japan, Australian, the euro zone and the U.S.

In the case of the U.S., PCE price index data- which is the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge- is due later in the week, and is also expected to factor into the central bank’s plans for interest rates later in 2024.

Traders were seen largely pricing out chances of rate cuts in May and June, as a chorus of Fed officials warned that the bank was in no hurry to begin trimming rates.

Comments from several more Fed officials are also on tap later this week.

US GDP, China PMIs awaited

Focus this week is also on a second reading on U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product, which is expected to reiterate that while economic growth remained ahead of its developed-world peers, it still slowed from the prior quarter.

But growth is still expected to remain robust enough to keep interest rates higher for longer in the country.

Purchasing managers index data from China is also due later this week, and is expected to provide more cues on a slowing economic recovery in the country.

But a string of recent stimulus measures, as well as signs of some pick-up in consumer spending drummed up hopes over a sustained economic recovery in the world’s largest oil importer.

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