Oil dropped 2% on Tuesday after two sessions of gains as deepening concerns of an economic slowdown and a stronger dollar outweighed hopes of higher Chinese demand and lower U.S. crude stocks.
Brent crude fell by $1.96, or 2.4%, to settle at $80.77 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped $1.69, or 2.2%, to settle at $77.07. On Monday, both contracts rose by more than 1%.
U.S. consumer confidence dropped to a nine-month low in April, feeding worries about a recession the day after regional lender First Republic (FRC.N) reported a flight in deposits of more than $100 billion, stoking fears of a potential banking crisis.
“Oil prices looked as if they were going to mount a rally before old banking worries re-emerged,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group.
The dollar rose on deepening worries about corporate earnings and the global economy. A stronger dollar pressures oil demand by making the commodity more expensive for buyers holding other currencies.
Gold prices also were flat as the dollar strengthened, while U.S. stocks fell as weak earnings fanned economic fears.
Investors remained wary that possible interest rate hikes by inflation-fighting central banks could slow economic growth and dent energy demand in the United States, Britain and the European Union.
The U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank are all expected to raise rates at their coming meetings. The Fed meets May 2-3.
Oil traders also worried that weak refining margins globally could force refiners to curb oil buying.
“The near-term pressure has been from rising interest rates and refinery run rate margins contracting, which could be a sign demand is slipping,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial
Early in the session, oil prices rose, supported by optimism that holiday travel in China would boost fuel demand and by expectations of a drop in U.S. crude inventories.
Involuntary and planned supply cuts also lent support. Iraq’s northern oil exports have shown little sign of an imminent restart after a month-long standstill, while members of the OPEC+ producer group prepared for the start of voluntary output cuts in May.
Traders were awaiting U.S. stockpiles data from the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday. Analysts expect crude inventories to fall by about 1.7 million barrels.