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Oil slumps as China’s worsening outbreak raises demand concerns

© Bloombergoil china
An oil and petrochemical storage facility on the outskirts of Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

Oil resumed its decline as China’s virus resurgence worsened, raising concerns about demand from the world’s biggest crude importer.

West Texas Intermediate futures fell below $97 a barrel after climbing 2.3% on Friday, the first gain in four sessions. Virus cases continue to rise in Shanghai and there is no clarity on when restrictions will be lifted. The flare-up has led to disruptions at ports and prompted some refiners to trim operating rates.

Oil has now given up most of the gains seen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February following a tumultuous period of trading. The war has fanned inflation and prompted the US and its allies to release strategic reserves to cool prices. Fighting continues despite diplomatic efforts for a cease-fire.

Shanghai reported a record of more than 26,000 new cases on Sunday, with China struggling to halt the spread of the highly infectious omicron variant as it pursues its Covid Zero strategy. Oil analysts are continuing to cut their demand forecasts as the outbreak curbs travel.

“There seems to be no end in sight for the current lockdowns, and clearly the longer this goes on, the more of a demand hit we will see,” Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING Groep NV in Singapore. “While the amount of impacted Russian supply is smaller-than-expected at the moment, this could change very quickly if the situation in Ukraine deteriorates further.”

WTI for May delivery lost 1.8% to $96.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 9:09 a.m. in Singapore.
Futures slipped 1% last week.
Brent for June settlement fell 1.8% to $100.96 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange after rising 2.2% on Friday.

Brent remains in a bullish backwardation structure — where near-dated contracts are more expensive than later-dated ones — although it’s eased over the past week. The prompt timespread for the global benchmark was 58 cents a barrel in backwardation, compared with $1.53 a week ago.

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