Oil slipped towards $56 a barrel on Tuesday, falling for a third day, as concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on oil demand outweighed OPEC output cuts and Libyan supply losses.
Crude fell almost 4% on Monday, with other commodities also reporting losses while U.S. and European equities suffered their steepest declines since mid-2016 on concern the coronavirus outbreak could turn into a pandemic.
Brent crude fell 25 cents to $56.05 a barrel by 2:50 p.m. GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude slipped 15 cents to $51.28.
“Oil prices are naturally feeling the full wrath of the coronavirus spread,” said Craig Erlam, an analyst at the brokerage OANDA, who added the $54 level for Brent was looking “vulnerable."
South Korea aims to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the center of a surge in coronavirus cases. The virus is also spreading in Europe and the Middle East.
Concern about the demand impact from the virus has pushed Brent down by almost $10 a barrel this year despite the shutdown of most of Libya’s output and a supply pact between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies.
Prices received further support as lawmakers based in areas of eastern Libya on Monday said that they would not participate for now in peace talks.
However, oil could come under more pressure from the latest U.S. supply reports.
Crude inventories are expected to rise for the fifth week running. The first of this week’s two supply reports, from the American Petroleum Institute (API), is due at 9:30 p.m. GMT.
Potential support for prices could also come from the OPEC and allies including Russia, which are considering whether to curb output further. However, skepticism is growing about the chance of further action.
“Doubts are emerging about the willingness of the OPEC+ to extend and expand the necessary production cuts,” said Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg. The producers are due to meet in Vienna on March 5-6 to decide policy.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister on Tuesday said the OPEC+ should not be complacent about the novel coronavirus. But Russia, the key to any deal, has yet to announce its position on further curbs.
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