SINGAPORE (Reuters) — Crude prices rose to their highest so far in 2019 on Monday after data showed refinery processing in China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, climbed to a record last year despite a slowing economy.
International Brent crude oil futures were at $62.75 per barrel at 0747 GMT, up 5 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their last close. Brent earlier rose above $63 for the first time in 2019.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.87 a barrel, up 7 cents, or 0.1 percent. WTI earlier advanced above $54 a barrel for the first time this year.
Traders said the price rises came after data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Monday showed crude oil refinery throughput climbed to a record 603.57 million tonnes in 2018, or 12.1 million barrels per day (bpd), up 6.8 percent from the previous year.
The strong oil demand figures came despite China’s 2018 economic growth slowing to the weakest in 28 years, at 6.6 percent versus 6.8 percent in 2017.
Although the slowdown was in line with expectations and not as sharp as some analysts had expected, the cooling of the world’s No. 2 economy casts a shadow over global growth.
“The global outlook remains murky, despite emerging positives from a dovish Fed (now boosting U.S. mortgage applications), faster China easing (China credit growth stabilizing) and a more durable U.S.-China truce,” U.S. bank J.P. Morgan said in a note.
Despite this, analysts said supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would likely support crude oil prices.
“Brent can remain above $60 per barrel on OPEC+ compliance, expiry of Iran waivers and slower U.S. output growth,” J.P. Morgan said.