Oil prices suffer a small fall

U.S. storage dropped by 4.62 million barrels to 425.3 million barrels last week, while outbound shipments of crude expanded to a record, according to an Energy Information Administration report Wednesday.

Last year, Iraq updated the estimate for its proven reserves to 153bn barrels from 143bn barrels, but if the oil minister is right, the figure could actually be double the 2017 estimate.

Asian stock markets rallied on Thursday morning, lifted by optimism that the trade war could be cooled. The European Brent variety appreciated by 0.4% to 68.32 Dollars per barrel.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters had predicted a small gain in stocks.

The Energy Information Administration reported a 4.6-million draw in crude oil inventories for the week to March 30, largely in line with analysts polled by IG, who had expected a draw of 4.1 million barrels. Net US crude imports rose last week by 1.1m barrels per day. Brent and USA prices at about the same time the previous week had been, respectively, well above $68.50 per barrel and $64 per barrel.

Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore, said oil markets remained nervous about "whether or not the US administration will scrap or maintain the fragile nuclear deal with Iran".

Rising trade tensions between the USA and China are likely to weigh on sentiment and could make for volatile trading in the coming days, traders and analysts said.

US crude stocks in Cushing, Oklahoma, are now close to their minimums, which means that inventory data this week will likely show a build, Yawger said.

China increased tariffs by up to 25 percent on 128 U.S. products from Monday, escalating a spat between the world's biggest economies in response to USA duties on imports of aluminum and steel. As a result, any disruption to Iranian crude oil is likely to have a significant impact on prices for the commodity. In a reflection of general atmosphere of nervousness, gold prices increased. Annual forecasts by the Japanese government's energy committee showed on Thursday the country's oil demand, excluding fuel oil used for power generation, is projected to fall 1.7 percent per year on average over the next five fiscal years.

Palladium lost 2.1pc to $945.75 per ounce, earlier hitting $938.22, its lowest level since October 11, and was set to fall more than 9pc this month, the steepest drop since December 2016.