December 23, 2014 / 2:43 AM / 3 years ago

Oil prices slide after early gains on hopes of firm U.S. data

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Oil prices slid back close to opening levels around $60.20 per barrel on Tuesday, after gaining earlier in the day on expectation of firm U.S. economic data due later on Tuesday.

A worker fills a car with diesel at a fuel station in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in this September 13, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Front-month U.S. WTI crude CLc1 futures rose over a dollar to a session high of $56.85 a barrel before dipping back to $55.67 at 0745 GMT (2.45 a.m. EST). Brent crude LCOc1 was up 9 cents at $60.20 a barrel.

Analysts said expectations of firm U.S. economic data later in the day had pushed prices higher in thin Asian trading due to a public holiday in Japan.

“The focus of today would likely come from U.S. durable orders and U.S. GDP figures. Durable goods orders depict a strong manufacturing sector which implies a higher industrial use of crude oil,” said Singapore-based Phillip Futures in a report on Tuesday.

“With the U.S. economy picking up, we expect the figures to be favorable.”

Tuesday’s price rises followed a volatile session on Monday, when Brent prices first jumped to almost $63 a barrel on the back of strong international market performances before sliding back to not much over $60 after Saudi Arabia’s powerful oil minister said OPEC would not cut production at any price.

“Brent could drop below $60 per barrel over the next six months, and WTI could fall to $50, as global oil inventories build sharply from here,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research note.

“The faster the oil price drops, the larger the damage to the global oil industry. Oil could rebound sharply by the end of 2015,” it added.

While the reluctance of producer club OPEC to cut output has pulled down prices, oil could receive some support from falling activity in the United States, where many drillers are struggling to make money at current price levels.

“U.S. oil drilling has begun to fall sharply. We expect this fall to continue apace throughout Q1, unless there is an unexpectedly early move up in oil prices,” Standard Chartered said in a report.

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