* OPEC has led supply cuts since the start of the year
* Brent remains below $70/b amid U.S./China trade war
* Speculators cut long crude positions
* China auto sales to be flat this year - Xinhua
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE, May 27 (Reuters) - Oil prices rose on Monday as ongoing
supply cuts led by producer club OPEC kept markets relatively tight,
but Brent remained below $70 per barrel on concerns over an ongoing
trade war between the United States and China.
Front-month Brent crude futures , the international benchmark
for oil prices, were at $69.10 per barrel at 0021 GMT, up 41 cents, or
0.6 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 10
cents, or 0.2 percent, at $58.73 per barrel.
"The relative strength of the very short end of the curve
likely reflects the market pricing in a known variable of lower
supplies from OPEC+," said Edward Bell, commodity analyst at
Emirates NBD bank.
A group of producers led by the Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC), known as OPEC+, has been withholding
supply since the start of the year to tighten the market and prop up prices.
But Monday's gain could not make up for falls last week, when both
crude futures contracts registered their biggest price declines this
year amid concerns that the Sino-American trade dispute could
accelerate a global economic slowdown.
Money managers cut their net long U.S. crude futures and options
positions in the week to May 21, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading
Commission (CFTC) said on Friday.
"Some signs of low confidence are creeping into positioning
data," Bell said.
In oil futures markets, the trade war effect is better seen beyond
the spot market.
"The impact from a trade war is a more medium- to long-term
issue and Dec. spreads weakened sharply over the last week," he said.
Beyond financial markets, there are also signs on the ground of a
slowdown in oil demand growth.
China's automobile sales, a key driver of global oil demand
growth, will reach around 28.1 million units this year, unchanged from
levels seen in 2018, when the country's auto market contracted for the
first time in more than two decades, state news agency Xinhua reported
The outlook for flat car sales may be too optimistic still, as
monthly sales have so far declined for 10 consecutive months.
A bright spot for carmakers, although not for the oil industry, is
that sales of new energy vehicles are likely to grow by about 27
percent to hit 1.6 million units, from 1.26 units in 2018, the report
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Richard Pullin)
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