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Crude oil futures steady as market awaits fresh cues

Singapore — Crude oil futures were largely steady during mid-morning trade in Asia Friday as market participants awaited fresh cues for price direction.

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Optimism derived from the US-China trade deal and the ongoing OPEC supply cut agreement was providing some underlying support to prices, analysts said.

At 10 am Singapore time (0200 GMT), ICE Brent February crude futures were 3 cents/b (0.05%) higher than Thursday's settle at $66.57/b, while the new front-month NYMEX February light sweet crude contract was 7 cents/b (0.11%) lower to $61.11/b.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that phase one of the US-China trade deal announced last week by US President Donald Trump was inked and is not subject to renegotiation. Mnuchin said he expects the deal to be officially signed in early January, according to media reports.

"Agreement of the phase one deal between the US and China has removed quite a lot of the uncertainties in the outlook for 2020, and with the global growth revival trade looking better and better by the day, investors are reveling in the holiday cheer," AxiTrader chief Asia market strategist Stephen Innes said Friday.

A reported decline in US crude inventory and OPEC's supply cut agreement were adding to positive sentiment, analysts said.

OPEC, Russia and nine other allies agreed earlier this month to deepen collective output cuts by 503,000 b/d to 1.7 million b/d over January-March.

"However, the market is thinning out, so there will likely be a degree of randomness as price action on headline risk could be exacerbated by declining liquidity levels," Innes noted.

The US oil and gas rig count rose by five to 860 in the week ended December 18, following an unusually large 15-rig jump the week before, Enverus data released Thursday showed.

Weekly Baker Hughes data on the US oil and gas rig count is due for release later Friday.

As of 0200 GMT, the US Dollar Index was up 0.03% at 97.02.

--Avantika Ramesh, avantika.ramesh@spglobal.com

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com