Oil prices seesawed in very thin trading early on Wednesday as traders followed with interest the U.S. presidential election that provides a voracious debate upon the direction of the country, and more importantly, provides uncertainty unto the marketplace.
Brent crude futures only started trading shortly before 0100 GMT, highly unusual for the international oil benchmark, and they were priced down 5 cents from their last settlement, at $45.99 per barrel at 0128 GMT.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were trading at $44.91 per barrel, down 7 cents from their last settlement.
Financial transaction volumes were extremely low as the market observed U.S. presidential election exit polls coming out from 0000 GMT, with early counting still being too close to call.
“Volumes are eerily low… this morning, which means a lot of investors are still sitting on the side lines waiting for further confirmation of the outcome of the U.S. election,” said Gary Huxtable, client advisor at Atlantic Pacific Securities.
“The main show today will be the U.S. presidential election results coming in over the Asia morning,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA brokerage in Singapore, although he added that a report by the American Petroleum Institute (API) showing crude inventory figures rising by 4.4 million barrel was weighing on markets.
“Action today will be dictated by results from the U.S. election,” said ANZ bank in a note.
In Asian oil markets, analysts were still deliberating over mixed oil data coming out of China on Tuesday, which showed a fall in crude imports and a rise in exports of refined products like diesel or gasoline.
“Crude oil net imports fell to just 6.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in October, down from 8.1 million bpd the previous month. Although this is a very large drop, to the lowest monthly import level since January 2016, it is still up 8 percent year-on-year,” Barclays bank said in a note.
Barclays said that the monthly decline was likely a result of falling government strategic stockpiling as prices in October were higher than now, making such purchases less attractive.
“Some (independent) ‘teapot’ refineries are also thought to have used up their crude oil import quotas for the year, and that may also be having a negative effect on crude oil import demand at the margin,” the bank said.