Oil prices steady after overnight sell-off as demand doubts persist

Photo: Bloomberg

Oil prices steadied on Friday, but were down 8% for the week, after an overnight sell-off as a new wave of coronavirus infections across Europe triggered fresh lockdowns and dampened expectations of any imminent recovery in fuel demand.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 33 cents, or 0.55%, to $59.67 a barrel by 0755 GMT.

Brent crude was up 23 cents, or 0.36%, to $63.51 a barrel.

The market is increasingly nervous about the outlook for fuel demand as new lockdown measures are imposed and vaccination rollouts stall, analysts said.

Oil prices plunged 7% for a fifth day in a row on Thursday as several large European economies have reimposed lockdowns and vaccination programmes have been slowed by distribution issues and concerns about possible side-effects.

Several French regions, including the Ile-de-France region around Paris, will start a four-week lockdown from Friday.

"That will impact oil consumption in Europe and thus potentially give oil prices a modest headwind," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said.

Although Germany, France and other countries have announced the resumption of inoculations after regulators declared the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, the programme halt has made it harder to overcome resistance to vaccines among some of the population.

Britain will have to slow its COVID-19 vaccine rollout next month due to a supply delay.

Goldman Sachs said headwinds related to European Union demand and Iran supply would slow the oil market rebalancing by 0.75 million barrels per day (bpd) in the second quarter, although it expects the OPEC+ grouping of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies to act to offset that.

Supplies of oil are plentiful, with Saudi Arabia's crude exports increasing in January for a seventh straight month to the highest since April 2020, the Joint Organisations Data Initiative website found on Thursday.

Shipments from the world's biggest oil exporter increased to 6.582 million barrels per day in January from 6.495 million the previous month.


(Reporting by Shu Zhang in Singapore and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Leslie Adler, Richard Pullin, Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Barbara Lewis)

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