Oil prices heading for weekly drop as coronavirus demand concerns mount

A view of Baiji oil refinery, north of Baghdad. (Reuters)

Oil prices fell on Friday and were set for a weekly decline due to mounting worries about the impact on fuel demand of a widespread resurgence in coronavirus infections, as well as some concern about the likely return of exports from Libya.

Brent crude was down 32 cents at $41.62 a barrel by 1325 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 41 cents to $39.90.

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Brent is heading for a drop of more than 3 percent this week with US crude on track for a decline of nearly 3 percent. Both benchmarks are also heading for a monthly decline, which would be the first for Brent in six months.

“This month has not been kind to the oil market,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“Rising virus infections, renewed lockdowns, slowing economic recovery and stalled US stimulus talks have put the brakes on the fragile revival in fuel demand.”

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In the United States, which has the highest death toll from the coronavirus pandemic and is the world’s biggest oil consumer, unemployment claims unexpectedly rose last week suggesting an economic recovery is flailing and pushing down fuel demand.

US fuel demand remains in the doldrums as the pandemic constrains travel. The four-week average of gasoline demand last week was 9 percent below a year earlier, government data showed on Wednesday.

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In other parts of the world, daily increases of coronavirus infections are hitting records and new restrictions are being put in place that will likely limit travel and fuel demand.

In India, throughput by crude oil refiners in August fell 26.4 percent from a year ago, the most in four months, as fuel demand ebbed because surging coronavirus cases hindered industrial and transport activity.

In Libya, Shell has provisionally booked a tanker to load a crude cargo at Libya’s Zueitina terminal on October 3, potentially the first since January at the recently reopened port.

However, analysts have questioned how quickly the country could ramp up supply.

“Fundamentally, nothing has changed to the supply side of the equation that is weighing on oil prices in the bigger picture,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Last Update: Friday, 25 September 2020 KSA 20:10 - GMT 17:10