Oil Steady as Fuel Prices Offset Crude Worries

Oil prices were flat on Wednesday as surging fuel costs for power generation offset expectations for slower crude demand growth as major economies struggle with inflation and supply chain issues.

Brent futures settled 24 cents, or 0.3%, lower at $83.18 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dipped 20 cents, or 0.25%, to end the day at $80.44 per barrel.

On Tuesday, WTI closed at its highest since October 2014 for a third day in a row.

Prices were subject to pressure when China, the world’s biggest crude importer, released data showing September imports fell 15% from a year earlier.

China, along with Europe and India, faces coal and natural gas shortages that have boosted prices for the fuels burned for electricity generation. Oil products are being used as a substitute.

The European Commission outlined measures the European Union could use to combat surging energy prices, and said it would explore joint gas purchasing among countries.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries trimmed its world oil demand growth forecast for 2021 while maintaining its 2022 view.

But OPEC said surging natural gas prices could boost demand for oil products as end users switch.

The market is awaiting U.S. oil inventory data, delayed by a day following the Columbus Day holiday on Monday.

Data from the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, was due at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday and from the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Thursday.