Oil prices fall as virus fear outweighs crude inventory data

LONDON, February 21, 2020 – Oil prices fell on Friday in Asia as fears about the coronavirus in China outweighed data that showed crude stockpiles rose much less than expected last week.

US Crude Oil WTI Futures dropped 0.9% to $53.42 by 1:19 AM ET (05:19 GMT), while international Brent Oil Futures lost 1.0% to $58.73.

Oil inventories rose by 414,000 barrels for the week ended Feb. 14, the EIA said. That compared with expectations for a build of 2.5 million barrels, according to forecasts compiled by Investing.com.

The EIA also said that gasoline inventories dropped unexpectedly by about 2 million barrels, versus forecasts for a rise of 435,000 barrels. Distillate stockpiles declined by 636,000 barrels, compared with expectations for a drawdown of 1.46 million barrels.

The data supported oil prices yesterday, which rose more than 1%, before easing today amid escalating fears about the new coronavirus.


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the apparent slowdown in Chinese infections, but cautioned that the new coronavirus could break out globally at any time.

Tedros said the number of cases outside of China were very low compared to the cases in China, but “that may not stay the same for long.”

Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan, echoed with his comments.

Kuroda said he was watching the coronavirus impact on the economy with “grave concerns,” and that he expects the health crisis to be a main topic of debate at the upcoming G-20 meeting.

“Huge uncertainty remains on how the spread of the new virus may affect the Japanese economy,” Kuroda told parliament.

“We’re watching the impact with grave concern and keeping a close eye on downside risks,” he added.

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