Oil Set for Weekly Drop as Demand Outlook Clouded

Oil Set for Weekly Drop as Demand Outlook Clouded
Oil headed for a modest weekly decline.

(Bloomberg) -- Oil headed for a modest weekly decline as fresh optimism that a U.S. stimulus deal is imminent was overshadowed by the threat a resurgent coronavirus poses to energy demand in Europe and the U.S.

Futures in New York fell toward $40 a barrel after gaining 1.5% on Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are “just about there” on a deal for a coronavirus relief package, even though Republican opposition in the Senate still poses a hurdle.

Prices were also buoyed after President Vladimir Putin said that Russia is ready to extend output curbs if needed. The comments are the latest sign the OPEC+ alliance may delay January’s planned taper of production cuts.

There are growing indications a second wave of the virus may throw the energy demand recovery in Europe and the U.S. into reverse. Cases jumped by a record in France on Thursday and toll road use in the nation posted the biggest year-on-year drop last week since July. Gasoline stockpiles in the U.S., where infections are spiking in some states, rose by the most since May.

“An oil price stuck in the low $40s is signaling caution about adding to supply at this time of growing volumes from a country like Libya,” said Victor Shum, vice president of energy consulting at IHS Markit. Market sentiment is turning against the prospect of the planned production increase from OPEC+, he said.


  • West Texas Intermediate for December delivery fell 0.7% to $40.36 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 7:52 a.m. in London.
    • The front-month contract has declined 1.3% so far this week.
  • Brent for December settlement dropped 0.6% to $42.20 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange and is down 1.7% for the week.
  • Crude futures on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange fell 0.7% to 264.9 yuan a barrel Friday and have lost 2.4% this week.

In another troubling sign for consumption, Peter Vanacker, the chief executive officer of Finnish refiner Neste Oyj, said that oil processors need to cut more capacity, especially in Europe, as demand drops. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. cut its forecast for oil consumption this quarter, citing the resurgent outbreak in Europe and North America.

While Putin didn’t rule out a change, he said his preference was to stick to OPEC+’s current plan to lift crude output by nearly 2 million barrels a day in January. The group is set to make a decision at a meeting on Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

Brent’s three-month timespread was 88 cents a barrel in contango - where prompt prices are cheaper than later-dated ones - compared with $2.17 at the end of last month. The change in the market structure indicates concerns about over-supply have eased somewhat.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Joe Biden said he would stop giving the oil industry federal subsidies, in the last presidential debate before the U.S. election on Nov. 3. He also reiterated that he would ban fracking on federal land and said he would help the American energy industry transition to more renewables over time. President Donald Trump warned that oil and gas jobs could be at risk if Biden wins the election.

Other oil-market news

  • Oil demand could see “lasting impacts” from the coronavirus while modest gains are projected in metals and agriculture prices as commodity markets, according to the World Bank.
  • Oman crude, a key Middle Eastern crude grade and regional benchmark, gained this week following a buying spree by traders and Chinese companies ahead of an expected demand surge come January.
  • The bottom of the oil barrel is offering some relief to refiners juggling an uneven demand recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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