By Laura Sanicola
(Reuters) -Oil settled down $2 a barrel on Friday and ended the week markedly lower, as traders worried that future U.S. interest rate hikes could weigh on demand and got nervous about mounting signs of ample crude and fuel supply.
On Thursday, two Fed officials warned additional hikes in borrowing costs are essential to curb inflation. The sentiments lifted the U.S. dollar, making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.
Brent crude futures settled down $2.14 or 2.5%, to $83.00 a barrel, falling 3.9% week on week. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) U.S. crude settled down $2.15, or 2.7%, to $76.34, falling 4.2% from last Friday’s settlement.
“Rate hike jitters have returned with a vengeance,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
Various signs of ample supply also weighed on the market.
Russian oil producers expect to maintain current volumes of crude oil exports, despite the government’s plan to cut oil output in March, the Vedomosti newspaper said on Friday, citing sources familiar with companies’ plans.
The latest snapshot of U.S. supplies, released on Wednesday, showed crude inventories in the week to Feb. 10 rose by 16.3 million barrels to 471.4 million barrels, their highest level since June 2021.
“Because oil storage is at a 19 month high, refiners are going to stretch out turnaround season for as long as they can,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho.
Heating oil cracks fell 5% on Friday as warm weather sapped demand for the fuel in mid-February.
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by one to 760 in the week to Feb. 17, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said on Friday.
Despite this week’s rig decline, Baker Hughes said the total count was still up 115, or 18%, over this time last year.
Some support came from moves this week by the International Energy Agency and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to raise their forecasts for global oil demand growth this year, citing expectations for more Chinese demand.
And Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the current deal by OPEC+, which groups OPEC producers with Russia and others, to cut oil output targets by 2 million barrels per day, would be locked in until the end of the year, adding he remained cautious on Chinese demand.
(Additional reporting by Alex Lawder, Yuka Obayashi and Sudarshan Varadhan; editing by Jason Neely, Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio)