Oil falls as rising virus cases overshadow demand recovery

An aerial view of oil tankers anchored near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 28, 2020 off the coast of Long Beach, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

Oil prices eased on Tuesday amid concerns that a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections will see a global demand recovery stalling due to tighter lockdowns, just as major producers ramp up output.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 68 cents, or 1.7%, at $40.33 a barrel, while Brent crude futures were 72 cents, or 1.7%, lower at $43.43 a barrel.

The slide comes after WTI rose 1.8% and Brent climbed 1.5% on Monday on better-than-expected data on manufacturing activity in Asia, Europe and the United States.

“News from Asia and Europe are adding up to concerns that the infection crisis may now not be just limited to the U.S. and Brazil, but also to the rest of the world via a second wave,” said Paola Rodriguez Masiu from Rystad Energy.

Denting fuel demand, cities from Manila to Melbourne are tightening lockdowns to battle new infections, while Norway has stopped cruise ship traffic in the latest European travel alarm.

In a further sign of a patchy rebound in demand, analysts estimate U.S. refined product stockpiles rose last week, according to a preliminary Reuters poll ahead of data from the American Petroleum Institute industry group later on Tuesday and the U.S. government on Wednesday.

At the same time producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, together known as OPEC+, are raising output this month, adding around 1.5 million barrels a day of supply. U.S. producers also plan to restart shut-in production.

“Most oil market participants expect more downward pressure on oil… with COVID-19 ravaging the landscape and OPEC+ adding more barrels into play,” said Stephen Innes, Chief Global Markets Strategist at AxiCorp.

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