Oil prices were little changed overnight as the market wavered on expectations for an imminent trade deal between the United States and China while awaiting US government crude stocks data.
Investors also weighed OPEC-led efforts to tighten crude supply against the restart of Libya’s biggest oilfield and the prospect of weaker demand from China.
Brent, the international benchmark, rose 3 US cents to $US65.70 a barrel.
US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 2 US cents to $US56.57 a barrel.
‘Oil is still waiting for a deal to come back to table with China,’ said Phillip Streible, senior commodities strategist at RJO Futures.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Donald Trump would reject any trade deal that is not perfect, but added the White House would keep working on an agreement.
A day earlier, reports that China and the US could reach a formal agreement in March boosted crude futures.
Supply curbs by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies helped support crude.
On Monday, Russia said it would speed up its output cuts this month, and OPEC sources this week also said the group would likely extend its output cut pact that has driven oil prices about 20 per cent higher this year.
‘By them kicking the can down the road, and not making a decision on production until June, the die has basically been cast for the start of US summer driving season. You’d think that’d be pretty bullish,’ said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
The restart of Libya’s El Sharara oilfield could offset some of the cuts, however, as the field, which has a capacity of 315,000 barrels a day, had been closed since December.
The market expects US inventory reports will show rising crude stockpiles.
Six analysts polled by Reuters estimated, on average, that crude stocks rose 400,000 barrels in the week to March 1.
Supply reports are expected from the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, followed by the government’s official figures on Wednesday.
Concern about a slowdown in oil demand growth has weighed on prices.
China’s government said it is targeting economic growth of 6.0 to 6.5 per cent in 2019, lower than the 6.6 per cent growth reported last year and raising the prospect of slowing fuel demand.