Oil prices fall, Brent drops away from $70

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Friday, with Brent slipping away from the $70 mark after briefly rising above that level in the previous session, as traders fretted about progress in U.S.-China talks to end a trade war.

FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind an oil pump outside Saint-Fiacre, near Paris, France March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

International benchmark Brent futures dropped 23 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $69.17 a barrel by 0040. On Thursday, they closed 9 cents higher after touching a session high of $70.03, the highest since Nov. 12.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 2 cents at $62.08. The contract fell 36 cents in the previous session, having hit $62.99 on Wednesday, its highest since November.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a trade deal with China was getting very close and could be reached in about four weeks, but he said sticking points included tariffs and intellectual property theft.

“A summit in April is looking unlikely despite the comments from both sides on how well the negotiations are going,” Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note.

“After much talk there is still nothing to show for it, which is once again putting downward pressure on energy demand going forward,” Esparza said.

Brent has gained nearly 30 percent this year, while WTI has risen nearly 40 percent, underpinned by U.S. sanctions on Iranian and Venezuelan crude, OPEC production cuts and rising global demand.

But bearish economic indicators this week, including lower German factory orders, may be putting a cap on those gains.

German industrial orders fell in February by the sharpest rate in more than two years, according to data released Thursday.

Orders were hit by a slump in foreign demand, compounding worries that Europe’s largest economy had a weak start to the year.

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Richard Pullin

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