(New York) Oil prices eased on Friday as concerns about buoyant demand returned to center stage ahead of an intense week on the monetary policy front by central banks.

A barrel of Brent from the North Sea, for delivery in August, fell 1.54% to 74.79 dollars.

Its US equivalent, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for July delivery, fell 1.57% to $70.17.

The market did not have time to react to the announcement, made in the second half of the day by the US Department of Energy, of the effective purchase of three million barrels of crude oil to replenish the strategic reserves of the United States. .

Five out of the ten companies that had applied to sell their oil were awarded the offer.

The barrels were purchased by the government at an average price of $73 per barrel, well below the price of $95 per barrel at which these reserves had been sold, “a good deal for the taxpayers,” the minister said. Department of Energy in a statement. This oil will be delivered in August and stored in underground tanks at the Big Hill site in Texas.

The government has also issued another bid for another three million barrels of crude, which will be auctioned by June 20.

After the administration began tapping into these strategic reserves in September 2021 to pressure prices downward, they fell to their lowest level since 1983, at 353.6 million barrels.

On the market, prices, initially rising at the start of the session, fell as the weekend approached, which will be followed by a week full of events related to inflation and monetary policy.

The US Federal Reserve (Fed) meets Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to leave rates unchanged, but investors await its new forecasts.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is meeting on Thursday and a further hike of a quarter of a percentage point is expected.

“Also, we keep having these demand leaks,” commented John Kilduff of Again Capital. He points in particular to the disappointed hopes of the recovery in China. “There was so much optimism about recovery from the lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns, but it didn’t live up to expectations,” he said.

Inflation in China was near zero in May, as ex-factory prices continued to plunge, a sign of sluggish demand and a complicated environment for businesses, according to official figures released on Friday.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), the main gauge of inflation, rose 0.2% year on year in May, from 0.1% a month earlier, according to the National Office. Statistics (SNB) Chinese.