Oil Is At The Mercy Of Financial Markets

Oil prices regained more ground on Wednesday, pushed higher after equity markets rebounded from an initial selloff at the start of 2019 trading. 

The price gains are not entirely convincing. WTI and Brent posted strong gains, each up more than 3 percent by midday in New York, but come largely after U.S. equity markets shook off an earlier bout of pessimism. 

In fact, the trajectory and health of the global economy has moved to the top of the list in terms of variables exerting influence on oil prices. On any given day, stock prices offer a clue into investor sentiment in this regard. "Energy markets are following lockstep with what the equity markets are doing here, and I think that's going to continue to be the case," Brian LaRose at ICAP Technical Analysis, told Reuters

There were not a ton of new indicators to offer further insight into what to expect in early 2019. The most recent piece of data came from China's factory activity, which showed a contraction in December for the first time in two years – not exactly a positive signal. 

"The manufacturing survey data out of China this week is particularly negative for crude oil, as it goes to the heart of the key demand center for the market," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management, according to Reuters. 

On the other hand, just a few days ago, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jingping apparently had a lengthy phone conversation in which they made progress on the trade front. Xi told Trump in a that he had "hopes that both teams can meet each other halfway and reach an agreement beneficial to both countries and the world as early as possible," according to Xinhua. Trump followed that up in a tweet, stating that a "deal is moving along very well," one that covers all subjects. "Big progress being made!" Trump said. 

A thaw in the trade war could relieve one of the global economy's major headwinds for 2019. 

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