Oil prices settled lower on Friday as new coronavirus cases spiked in the United States, and on growing concerns about rising US output ticking up while crude stockpiles sat at record highs.
Brent crude futures settled down 3 US cents at $US40.91, falling 1 per cent on the week. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 23 US cents to $US38.49, down 1.6 per cent on the week.
Earlier gains, supported by optimism over rising road traffic boosting fuel demand, were erased in US trading on fears that spiking COVID-19 infections in large gasoline-consuming US states could stall the demand recovery. Cases have risen sharply in California, Texas and Florida, the three most populous US states.
Friday morning, Texas Governor Greg Abbott reversed the state’s reopening plan, ordering most bars to close due to the surge in cases.
That could undermine the steady increase in refining output, with US refiners now operating at nearly 75 per cent of their capacity, according to government data.
“Employers are delaying the return of their employees back to the office and that will impact the return of gasoline demand,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates.
The global economic outlook has also worsened or at best stayed about the same in the past month, a majority of economists polled by Reuters said, and the recession under way is expected to be deeper than earlier predicted.
A Dallas Federal Reserve Bank survey of executives in the top US oil and gas producing region found more than half of executives who cut production expect to resume some output by the end of July.
US and Canadian energy firms cut the number of oil and natural gas rigs operating to a record low again this week, according to data from Baker Hughes.