Global oil prices rose to a fresh three-week high Monday as investors continued to reprice crude demand following stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs data and moves by China's central bank to stoke growth in the word's biggest energy market.
Brent crude prices have risen nearly 15% since hitting a multi-year trough on Christmas Eve, driven by a weakening U.S. dollar, the impact of OPEC production cuts and the recent suggestion from both the Federal Reserve and the People's Bank of China that both central banks are prepared to continue supporting growth and liquidity in the world's two biggest economies. Trade talks between U.S. and China officials, which kicked off today in Beijing, added to the bullish sentiment.
"Oil has also become closely linked to the risk environment lately, with a global slowdown being an obvious downside risk for prices," said Oanda's senior market analyst Craig Erlam. "The rally on Friday, with another looking on the cards today, is proving supportive for Brent and WTI although the EIA report last week did take some of the edge off the recovery."
Brent crude contracts for March delivery, the global benchmark, were marked 97 cents higher from their Friday close in New York and changing hands at $57.99 per barrel while WTI contracts for the February, which are more tightly linked to U.S. gas prices, were marked 66 cents higher at $48.62 per barrel.
The Energy Information Administration said Friday that U.S. crude stocks were little changed from their previous levels at around 441 million barrels on the week ending December 28, a figure that surprised analysts who were expected a reduction owing to cheaper prices and faster U.S. production rates.
That data was offset, however, by a fall in the Baker Hughes rig count, which tracks drilling installations around the United States, to 877 from 885 over the week ending January 4. That count, as well as data showing U.S. employers added 312,000 new jobs last month -- nearly double the Street consensus of 177,000 and well up on last month's revised 176,000 reading --- boosted not only crude but also global commodity prices in markets around the world.
Basic resource stocks lead European markets higher Monday, in fact, after China's decision to to reduce the ratio of cash to loans that domestic lenders need to hold on their balance sheets, a move that will add around $220 billion to the nation's financial system as officials attempt to re-ignite growth in the world's second-largest economy.