Oil falls on fears of coronavirus second wave

Concern over persistent glut cancels out support from supply cuts by biggest producers

Reuters May 11, 2020
Concern over persistent glut cancels out support from supply cuts by biggest producers. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Monday as a new wave of coronavirus infections in some countries and concern over a persistent glut cancelled out support from supply cuts by the world’s biggest producers.

Brent crude LCOc1 was down $0.74, or 2.4%, at $30.23 a barrel by 1012 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 fell 55 cents, or 2.2%, to $24.19.

Possible signs of a second wave of infections worried investors as Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China, on Monday reported its first cluster of infections since the city’s lockdown was lifted a month ago.

New coronavirus infections are accelerating in Germany only days after it loosened social restrictions, raising concerns that the pandemic could again slip out of control. South Korea also warned of a second wave of the virus on Sunday.

“Concern over a second wave, the nearly 50% year-on-year drop in Indian oil demand in April and likely further oil inventory builds this week are likely weighing on oil prices at the start of the week,” said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Indian fuel demand in April was down 45.8% year-on-year because of a nationwide lockdown. Consumption of fuel, a proxy for oil demand, totalled 9.93 million tonnes, its lowest since 2007, government data showed on Saturday.

Global oil demand has slumped by about 30% as the pandemic has curtailed movement across the world, building up inventories globally.

To reduce the oversupply, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied producers – a grouping known as OPEC+ ­ agreed to cut production from May 1 by about 10 million bpd in an effort to support prices.

“Despite the production curtailments that commenced this month, traders are starting to realise that the size of the supply-demand imbalance leaves little room for optimism,” said Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets, Bjornar Tonhaugen.

“Storage in the United States continues to fill up with crude and we are coming closer to tank tops by the day.”

Fears that the US is running out of storage space triggered a crash in WTI prices into negative territory last month, prompting some US producers to rein in output.

The number of operating oil and gas rigs in the world’s largest oil producer fell to 374 in the week to May 8, a record low according to data going back to 1940 from energy services company Baker Hughes Co.

Both benchmarks have notched gains over the past two weeks as fuel demand rebounded modestly as some travel restrictions were eased.