Oil prices fall as India’s COVID-19 surge hurts fuel demand outlook

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Oil prices fell almost $1 on Monday on fears that surging COVID-19 cases in India will dent fuel demand in the world’s third-biggest oil importer, while an expected supply increase from OPEC+ also added to pressure.

Brent crude was 89 cents, or 1.4 percent, lower at $65.22 a barrel by 0846 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 87 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $61.27 a barrel.

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Both benchmarks fell about 1 percent last week.

“The market is tending to focus more on the bad news from India and Japan at present, where the number of new coronavirus cases has risen sharply, prompting increased mobility restrictions to be imposed,” said Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg.

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India and Japan are world’s third and fourth biggest crude oil importers.

India’s new coronavirus infections hit a record peak for a fifth day on Monday as countries including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid to help battle the crisis overwhelming its hospitals.

Consultancy FGE expects gasoline demand in India to slip by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) in April and by more than 170,000 bpd in May. India’s total gasoline sales came to nearly 747,000 bpd in March.

Diesel demand, which at about 1.75 million bpd accounts for about 40 percent of refined fuel sales in India, may slump by 220,000 bpd in April and by another 400,000 bpd in May, FGE says.

In Japan, a third state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and two other prefectures began on Sunday, affecting nearly a quarter of the population as the country attempts to combat a surge in cases.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia, known as OPEC+, will discuss output policy at a meeting this week, but most analysts believe it will go ahead with its decision to ease output restrictions from May.

The group in a meeting at the start of April agreed to ease production curbs by 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May, another 350,000 bpd in June and a further 400,000 bpd or so in July.

“The looming wave of fresh OPEC+ supply coupled with renewed demand concerns has dented hopes for a meaningful summer price pounce,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

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