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Crude oil futures stable in Asia trade amid demand concerns, US-China tensions

Singapore — 0244 GMT: Crude oil futures were largely stable in mid-morning trade in Asia August 5 as concerns over the demand outlook amid a resurgence in regional coronavirus infections and rising geopolitical tensions between the US and China weighed on sentiment after both key benchmarks settled near five-month highs overnight.

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At 11:26 am Singapore time (0326 GMT), the ICE Brent October crude futures were up 3 cents/b (0.07%) from the August 4 settle at $44.46/b, while the NYMEX September light sweet crude contract was 1 cent/b (0.02%) lower at $41.69/b.

"Oil markets are trading within well-worn ranges. Prices continue to converge around the current center of mass, around Brent $44/b, supported by signs of improvement in manufacturing and business sentiment across key economies, while coat-tailing upswings in US stock markets are creating an unambiguous "risk-on" habitat this week," AxiCorp chief global markets analyst Stephen Innes said in a note Aug. 5.

There was no immediate market reaction to a massive explosion overnight near Lebanon's main port of Beirut that has left at least 78 dead and 4,000 wounded, which Lebanese interior minister Mohamed Fehmi attributed on local television to stored ammonium nitrate, typically used in fertilizers. The port handles 60% of all Lebanon's imports, and around 85% of the country's cereals are stored in nearby silos that were damaged by the blast, S&P Global Platts reported earlier.

The American Petroleum Institute Aug. 4 reported a larger-than-expected draw in US commercial crude inventories and gasoline stocks, according to analyst reports. US factory orders also rose 6.2% in June in US Census Bureau data released Aug. 4.

"The larger-than-expected drawdown of 8.6 million barrels in US stockpiles had helped to push prices up overnight [and while] prices are evidently not near the high yesterday, prices are still supported," IG market strategist Pan Jingyi, told S&P Global Platts on Aug. 5. "[There is] still a lot of sideways action for crude oil prices and [this is] not a surprise with demand still in question given the persistent COVID-19 stay and geopolitics also returning to the spotlight," she added.

Market participants will look to the more definitive weekly US stocks report due for release by the Energy Information Administration later in the day for further cues.

Tensions between the US and China that have escalated in recent weeks heightened further overnight after US President Donald Trump threatened to ban the TikTok app on national security grounds unless it was sold to an American company by Sept. 15, according to media reports.