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Friday, March 24, 2023

Oil Prices Slide on Record Coronavirus Cases, Libyan Production

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Oil prices tumbled on Monday, amid investor alarm over mounting coronavirus cases in the US and Europe and an expansion of output in Libya.

West Texas Intermediate Crude prices in the US were down as much as 3.3 percent shortly after European markets opened, but pared back losses to trade around 2 percent lower at $39.06 at around 11.30am in the UK (7.30 eastern time in the US).

Widely traded Brent futures contracts, down 3.1 percent earlier in the day, were trading 1.9 percent lower at $40.97.

Demand is expected to take a hit from rising COVID-19 cases, with the latest virus developments also leaving equities trading lower in Asia and Europe and set for declines at the open in the US.

The US saw daily reported infection rates hit a record high over the weekend at more than 85,000.

“In Europe we’ve seen Italy introduce the strongest virus restrictions since the end of a national lockdown in May as the country reported a daily record of cases while Spain approved a new national curfew. France also reported a record number of infections at over 52,000,” wrote Deutsche Bank analysts in a note.

Ian Williams, an analyst at Peel Hunt, said “the weekend’s news of increasing new cases is prompting renewed risk aversion.” It comes on top of purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data last week that showed activity declining further in Europe’s services sector.

Eamonn Sheridan, chief Asia-Pacific currency analyst at ForexLive, also noted supply pressures on oil prices. “Libya is upping the pace it’s bringing production back online, adding supply into the market,” he said.

It comes after the country’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) announced on Monday, “the closures in all Libyan fields and ports have ended.”

The NOC said on its Facebook page it had lifted the state of ‘force majeure’ at all sites, a contract clause halting production after the country’s civil war had seen them hit by a blockade. It had previously announced a similar easing of restrictions only at secure facilities.

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