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Crude oil futures inch higher in rangebound trade amid US GDP contraction

Highlights

US GDP records second straight quarter of contraction

Oil executives highlight risk of higher oil prices

Crude oil futures were higher in mid-morning Asian trade July 29, though it remains trapped in a well-worn range, as investors continued to weigh signs of macroeconomic weakness against a tight physical market.

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At 10:28 am Singapore time (0228 GMT), the ICE October Brent futures contract was up 48 cents/b (0.47%) from the previous close at $102.31/b, while the NYMEX September light sweet crude contract rose 73 cents/b (0.76%) at $97.15/b.

Despite notching intraday rises of $2/b or more on most days this week, oil prices have mostly failed to hold onto those gains as investors continued to fret over weakening demand.

US data continued to show signs of economic weakness, with the US GDP contracting for a second straight quarter in the three months ended June, data from the Commerce Department showed July 28.

While the data appeared to confirm a technical recession for the US economy, analysts nonetheless noted that the labor market remains tight with hundreds of thousands of jobs added each month.

"The technical recession was not declared official, considering that the US labor market remains healthy, but tighter conditions ahead suggest that such risks remain prominent," IG market strategist Yeap Jun Rong said in a July 29 note.

US President Joe Biden has also dismissed the notion of a recession, saying there were "signs of economic progress" in the second quarter.

Nonetheless, oil prices are likely to remain trapped in the wide $10/b range it has treaded since early July as tight supply limited price declines.

The chief executives of TotalEnergies and Shell, in reporting second quarter earnings this week, both highlighted the risk of higher oil prices as supply continues to underperform demand.

"Where we are today, there is more upside than downside when it comes to the oil price," Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said in a July 28 interview with Bloomberg. "Demand hasn't fully recovered yet and supply is definitely tight."

Dubai crude swaps were lower in mid-morning trade in Asia July 29 from the previous close, though intermonth spreads were mixed.

The September Dubai swap was pegged at $96.84/b at 10 am Singapore time (0200 GMT), down 81 cents/b (0.83%) from the July 28 Asian market close.

The August-September Dubai swap intermonth spread was pegged at $3.23/b at 10 am in Singapore, down 26 cents/b over the same period, while the September-October intermonth spread was pegged at $2.47/b, up 13 cents/b.

The September Brent/Dubai EFS was pegged at $10.86/b, up 62 cents/b.