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Oil prices decline on weak Chinese data, U.S. pipeline problems

By Scott DiSavino
FILE PHOTO: An employee holds a sample of crude oil at the Irkutsk Oil Co-owned Yarakta field in the Irkutsk region

By Scott DiSavino

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Thursday after data showed weak factory activity in China, with U.S. crude facing extra pressure after flows out of the Cushing, Oklahoma storage hub were disrupted because of reduced flows on a pipeline.

Brent <LCOc1> futures were down 38 cents, or 0.6%, at $60.23 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude <CLc1> fell 88 cents, or 1.6%, to $54.18.

The front-month Brent contract for December delivery expires on Thursday. Futures for January delivery <LCOF0>, which will soon be the front-month, fell about 1.0% to settle at $59.62.

For the month, Brent was on track to fall less than 1% and WTI to rise less than 1%.

In the United States, TC Energy Corp's <TRP.TO> 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) Marketlink crude pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Nederland, Texas, was operating at reduced rates, three sources said. On Tuesday, TC Energy's Keystone pipeline shut after a leak in North Dakota.

Marketlink is connected to the 590,000-bpd Keystone oil pipeline system, which transports Canadian crude from Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and the Cushing storage hub.

The Keystone outage should dent supplies at Cushing, the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. But WTI prices could still be pressured because of the Marketlink flows slowing.

More than 9,000 barrels of oil were estimated to have spilled from Keystone after a leak was discovered late Tuesday, according to state regulators in North Dakota.

In early trading, official data from China showed factory activity shrank for a sixth straight month in October while growth in the country's service sector was its slowest since February 2016.

A trade war between China and the United States has been weighing on the demand outlook for oil.

Leaders from the United States and China encountered a new obstacle in their struggle to end the trade conflict when the summit at which they were supposed to meet was cancelled because of violent protests in Chile, the host nation.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted a new location would be announced soon.

A Reuters survey showed that oil prices are likely to remain pressured this year and next. The poll of 51 economists and analysts forecast Brent crude would average $64.16 a barrel in 2019 and $62.38 next year.

Releasing third-quarter results, Royal Dutch Shell Plc <RDSa.L> warned that uncertain economic conditions could slow its $25 billion share buyback programme, the world's largest, and had led to a downward revision to its oil price outlook.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates for a third time this year on Wednesday, looking to bolster economic growth with a move that could also boost demand for crude.

Yet gains are likely to be capped until inventories start to show sustained declines.

U.S. crude inventories <USOILC=ECI> rose by 5.7 million barrels in the week to Oct. 25, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, compared with analyst expectations for a much smaller increase of just 494,000 barrels. [EIA/S]

"The U.S. stock report was anything but encouraging," PVM analysts said in a note.

Cushioning the bearish crude data, the EIA showed gasoline and distillate inventories continued to draw.

For a graphic on U.S. petroleum inventories:


(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York, Shadia Nasralla in London and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo, Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)