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Oil falls on Middle East talks, dimming near-term US rate cut hopes

Oil falls on Middle East talks, dimming near-term US rate cut hopes

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) -Oil prices fell by more than $1 a barrel on Monday as Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks in Cairo tempered fears of a wider Middle East conflict, while U.S. inflation data dimmed the prospect of imminent interest rate cuts.

Brent crude futures for June, which expire on Tuesday, fell $1.19, or 1.3%, to $88.31 a barrel by 1:34 p.m. EDT (1734 GMT). The more active July contract fell 98 cents, or 1.1%, to $87.23 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were down $1.14, or 1.3%, at $82.71 a barrel.

Israeli airstrikes killed at least 25 Palestinians and wounded many others on Monday, as Hamas leaders arrived in Cairo for a new round of talks with Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Egypt is hopeful but waiting for a response on the plan from Israel and Hamas, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.

“You’re seeing the geopolitical risk premium leak out again today because of no new escalation in the Israel-Hamas situation,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC. “A ceasefire or hostage negation release would take out even more risk premium.”

Markets were also on watch for the U.S. Federal Reserve’s May 1 monetary policy review, which could indicate the direction of the central bank’s interest rate decisions.

“The language and forward forecasts will be pored over by all market participants,” PVM’s Evans said.

Investors are cautiously pricing a higher probability that the Fed could hike interest rates by a quarter percentage point this year and next as inflation and the labor market remain resilient.

U.S. monthly inflation rose moderately in March, putting a damper on expectations of rate cuts in the near future. Lower inflation would have increased the likelihood of rate cuts, which tend to stimulate economic growth and oil demand.

“The sticky U.S. inflation sparks concerns for ‘higher-for-longer’ interest rates,” leading to a stronger U.S. dollar and putting pressure on commodity prices, independent market analyst Tina Teng said.

A stronger dollar makes oil more expensive for those holding other currencies. Additionally, the oil market was looking forward to the monthly U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, which is due on Friday and closely watched by the Fed.

“That will likely have a significant impact on next week’s oil trade,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

By contrast, an early look at April inflation data from the euro zone, from Spain and Germany, offers a mixed picture for the European Central Bank, but looks unlikely to derail a June rate cut.

Inflation data from the wider euro zone is to be released on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York and Deep Vakil in Bengaluru, Colleen Howe and Mohi Narayan; editing by Michael Perry, Jason Neely, Alexander Smith, Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang)

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