From the Field
Oil prices steady but virus fears continue to weigh
LONDON, February 26, 2020 – Oil prices steadied on Wednesday in Asia, but virus fears continued to weigh as the spreading showed no signs of slowing.
US Crude Oil WTI Futures gained 0.2% to $50.02 by 1:18 AM ET (05:18 GMT). International Brent Oil Futures inched up 0.1% to $54.30.
Oil prices dropped almost 3% in the previous session amid the growing coronavirus contagion.
“Oil prices are naturally feeling the full wrath of the coronavirus spread, with Brent now not trading too far from its February lows and momentum not its friend,” said Craig Erlam, analyst at New York-based OANDA. “(The) $54 (level) is looking vulnerable.”
Outside of China, Iran’s virus death toll rose to 16 today, while infections worsened in other countries including South Korea and Italy.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at a news briefing overnight that a spread of Covid-19 in the US was “inevitable” and warned Americans to prepare for disruptions in their daily lives.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at CDC.
Messonnier noted that citizens should consider “social distancing measures,” which might include closing schools and cancelling meetings and conferences.
On the data front, the American Petroleum Institute reported that crude stockpiles rose 1.3 million barrels last week.
Government data on weekly oil inventories is due later in the day and is expected to show a 2 million-barrel rise.
In other news, OPEC+ are due to meet in Vienna in early March and is expected to take measures to respond to the spread of the coronavirus.