Oil ekes out gain, but still posts second straight negative week

Offshore oil platforms are seen on April 20, 2020 in Huntington Beach, California.

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Oil prices edged higher on Friday as equities markets firmed, but crude remained on track for a second weekly drop as investors expected a global glut to persist if demand weakens further with rising COVID-19 cases in some countries.

Brent crude rose 16 cents, or 0.4%, to $40.22 a barrel. U.S. crude settled 3 cents, or 0.08%, higher at $37.33. For the week, however, it declined more than 6%.

Infections are growing faster in India than anywhere else, and the health ministry reported another record daily jump of 96,551 new cases on Friday, taking the official total to 4.5 million.

U.S. stock markets rose, after a pullback in the previous session. Still, the three main U.S. stock indexes were also headed for a second straight weekly decline as recent economic indicators suggested a long and difficult recovery from the pandemic.

“The financial markets are continuing to set the tone, including on the oil market … fears about an oversupply have added to the general feeling of uncertainty,” Commerzbank analysts said in a note.

Also dampening the market mood, the U.S. Senate killed a Republican bill that would have provided around $300 billion in new coronavirus aid.

In the United States, crude stockpiles rose last week, against expectations, as refineries slowly returned to operations after production sites were shut down due to storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the wider region.

U.S. crude inventories rose 2 million barrels, compared with forecasts for a 1.3 million-barrel decrease in a Reuters poll.

U.S. drillers also have started to slowly add oil and gas rigs after the rig count, an early indicator of future output, hit a record low of 244 in the week to Aug. 14. This week’s data from Baker Hughes is due at 1 p.m..

In a further bearish sign, traders were starting to book tankers again to store crude oil and diesel, amid a stalled economic recovery as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Increasing stockpiles are likely to be a subject at a meeting on Sept. 17 of the market monitoring panel of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia.

The group known as OPEC+ has been withholding supply to reduce stockpiles, but analysts say the meeting is likely to focus on compliance among members, rather than deeper cuts.

Following Saudi Arabia, Kuwait also lowered its official selling price to Asia for October, to counter slower demand.

“The decline is triggered by a series of unfortunate events: a surge in COVID-19 cases worldwide, the end of the peak summer driving season, the slowdown of the Chinese crude importing machine, and major producers trimming the OSPs to Asia as refinery margins worsen,” Rystad Energy’s senior oil markets analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu said.

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