Oil Slips Near $103 Ahead of Fed, Jobs Data


The price of oil closed at a four-week low Tuesday, as traders awaited comments from the U.S. central bank as well as data releases later in the week, including U.S. jobs figures.

Benchmark oil for September delivery fell $1.47 to finish at $103.08 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That’s the lowest closing price since July 3. Brent crude, the benchmark for international crudes, fell 54 cents to end at $106.91 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Traders are waiting for the Federal Reserve to give its latest appraisal of the U.S. economy and say whether a change in the central bank’s stimulus strategy is warranted. Fed officials finish a two-day meeting on Wednesday in Washington.

The Fed has been buying $85 billion of financial assets a month, in an attempt to keep long-term borrowing rates low and help shore up the U.S. economic recovery. However, the Fed is widely expected to wind down the program later this year if the economy continues to improve.

Oil prices have gotten a boost from low interest rates, which have made commodities like oil more attractive as investments.

Also on Wednesday, the government releases the first reading on second-quarter gross domestic product. Analysts expect the economy expanded more slowly last quarter compared with the 1.8 percent growth reported for the first three months of the year.

Traders are also looking to see whether the Energy Department will report another draw in oil supplies after a surprisingly large drop of 30 million barrels over the past month.

Oil supplies remain high compared with the five-year average, even after the month-long reduction, so most traders say it is more likely that oil prices will sooner fall than rise.

On Friday, the release of employment data for July will be examined for hints about future energy demand in the world’s No. 1 economy.

In other trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday:

  •  Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to finish at $3.02 a gallon.
  •  Heating oil fell 1 cent to end at $3.01 a gallon.
  •  Natural gas fell 4 cents to finish at $3.43 per 1,000 cubic feet.