Oil prices edge up off three-month lows; demand concerns persist
Oil futures on Wednesday clawed back some of the losses they sustained in the previous session, but a rebound in COVID-19 cases in some countries undermined hopes for a steady recovery in global demand.
Brent crude LCOc1 gained 81 cents, or 2.1%, to $40.62 a barrel by 11:28 a.m. EDT (1528 GMT). The benchmark dropped more than 5% on Tuesday to fall below $40 a barrel for the first time since June.
U.S. crude CLc1 rose $1.15, or 3.1%, to $37.91 a barrel, having fallen nearly 8% in the previous session.
That lifted the major benchmarks off Tuesday’s levels near three-month lows. Prices fell this week after Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco cut the October official selling prices for its Arab light oil, a sign of softening demand.
“When strong Middle Eastern producers are willing to sell-off in lower prices it is normal that the global market panics and follows suit,” said Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, Rystad Energy’s senior oil markets analyst.
The global health crisis continues to flare with coronavirus cases rising in India, Great Britain, Spain and several parts of the United States. The outbreaks are threatening to slow a global economic recovery and reduce demand for fuels from aviation gas to diesel.
“Short-term oil market fundamentals look soft: the demand recovery is fragile, inventories and spare capacity are high, and refining margins are low,” Morgan Stanley said.
Record supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+ have helped support prices, but with grim economic figures being reported almost daily, the outlook for demand for oil remains bleak.
China’s factory gate prices fell for a seventh straight month in August although at the slowest annual pace since March, suggesting industries in the world’s second-biggest economy continued their recovery from the coronavirus-induced downturn.
Investors awaited industry data on U.S. crude stockpiles due on Wednesday. U.S. crude oil stockpiles were expected to fall for a seventh straight week, while refined product inventories also likely dropped last week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.
Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York, additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Louise Heavens, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and David Gregorio