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Crude dips as optimism retreats despite stimulus talks

Singapore — 0210 GMT: Crude futures dipped in mid-morning trade in Asia Thursday as initial optimism around potential US stimulus measures retreated, with a weaker demand outlook persisting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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At 10:10 am Singapore time (0210 GMT), ICE Brent May crude futures were down 22 cents/b (0.80%) from Wednesday's settle at $27.17/b, while the NYMEX May light sweet crude contract was 39 cents/b (1.59%) lower at $24.10/b.

The oil complex traded higher overnight amid hopes of a $2 trillion US stimulus package, but signs of further debate indicated that the bill's signing would be delayed.

"Brent crude oil hovered around $27/b, as stimulatory measures failed to impress the oil market amid deteriorating demand," ANZ analysts said in a note Thursday.

"With lockdowns in many countries, expectations of oil demand contracting by more than 10 million b/d are rising. Such demand loss will increase the supply glut," the analysts added.

US crude inventories were also higher on the week, as refiner demand waned amid strong storage economics resulting from a steep contango market structure.

Commercial crude inventories increased 1.62 million barrels to 455.36 million barrels during the week ended March 20, US Energy Information Administration data showed Wednesday.

US crude exports also declined on the week. An estimated 3.85 million b/d of crude left the US, down 528,000 b/d from the week prior, the data showed.

Market participants remained watchful of Thursday's emergency G-20 virtual summit, as well as the signing of the $2 trillion US stimulus package.

"But persistent disagreements among lawmakers have clouded optimism that the bill will be signed into law soon as the country battles impact of a pandemic that has caused more than 900 deaths with over 65,000 being infected," Mizuho Bank analysts said in a note Thursday.