By Jeslyn Lerh SINGAPORE (.) – Oil prices rose for a second consecutive session on Thursday amid growing expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in September, but the upside was capped by higher U.S. inventories and an OPEC+ plan to increase supply. futures traded at $78.74 a barrel by 0645 GMT, up 33 cents or 0.42%. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures was at $74.46, up 39 cents or 0.53%. Nearly two-thirds of economists are now predicting the Fed will cut interest rates in September, according to .’ May 31-June 5 poll, offsetting recent bearish supply news. Lower interest rates decrease the cost of borrowing, which can incentivise economic activity and boost oil demand. However, the case for rate cuts could be potentially weakened by the U.S. services sector activity, which accounts for the vast majority of the country’s economic output, returning to growth in May after a contraction in April. Despite the gains on Thursday, however, oil benchmarks were still headed for weekly declines of about 4%, weighed down by the latest supply decision from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies. The group agreed on Sunday to extend most of their oil output cuts into 2025, but left room for voluntary cuts from eight members to be unwound gradually, beginning in October. “We believe the OPEC+ move to unwind the 2.2 million barrels per day in the final quarter of 2024 will add further pressure to benchmark prices,” said Emril Jamil, senior analyst for crude at LSEG Oil Research. Bearish sentiment is also expected to prevail on expectations of weaker demand as inventory builds, said Jamil.
Saudi Arabia has also cut its official selling prices (OSP) for July crude, a document seen showed on Wednesday. The move came amid falling Middle East crude benchmarks and weaker profit margins for Asian refiners. Meanwhile, stocks jumped by 1.2 million barrels in the week to May 31, compared with analysts’ estimates for a draw of 2.3 million barrels, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed.