Oil falls as spike in coronavirus cases knocks demand


Oil prices slid for a second consecutive session on Monday as coronavirus cases rose in the US and other places, leading some countries to resume partial lockdowns that could hurt fuel demand.

Brent crude dropped 83c, or 2%, to $40.19 a barrel by 6.56am, while US crude was at $37.69, down 80c, or 2.1%.

Brent crude is set to end June with a third consecutive monthly gain after major global producers extended an unprecedented 9.7-million barrels per day supply cut agreement into July, while oil demand improved after countries globally eased lockdown measures.

However, global coronavirus cases exceeded 10-million on Sunday as India and Brazil battled outbreaks of more than 10,000 cases daily. New outbreaks are reported in countries including China, New Zealand and Australia, prompting governments to impose restrictions again.

“The second wave contagion is alive and well,” Howie Lee, an economist at Singapore’s OCBC bank, said. “That is capping the bullish sentiment that we’ve seen in the last six to eight weeks.”

Other factors restricting oil prices’ advance at this stage include poor refining margins, high oil inventories and the resumption of US production, Lee said.

Despite efforts by Opec+ — Opec and allies including Russia — to reduce supplies, crude inventories in the US, the world’s largest oil producer and consumer, have hit its highest levels yet.

There is also a risk that gains in prices recently could see some US shale producers restart well

“There is also a risk that gains in prices recently could see some US shale producers restart wells,” ANZ analysts said.

Even as the number of operating oil and natural gas rigs dropped to a record low last week, higher oil prices are prompting some producers to resume drilling.

“In the next one-two weeks, we should see an uptick in rig count commensurate with the pickup in oil production,” OCBC’s Lee said.

Elsewhere, US shale oil pioneer Chesapeake Energy Corp filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday as it bowed to heavy debts and the impact of coronavirus outbreak on energy markets.

The Brent crude price is supported at $39.80 a barrel while WTI’s support level is at $37, Oanda senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley said, referring to technical charts.

“A daily close below these points will signal that a much deeper correction is upon oil markets,” he said, adding that a deteriorating Covid-19 picture in the US would be the most likely driver of lower prices. — Reuters

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