Oil prices ease as the pandemic outpaces Chinese and US data

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Thursday on bullish signs from Data on Chinese imports and US crude oil stock withdrawals were offset by rising coronavirus cases in Europe and new blockades in China.

Brent crude oil futures fell 36 cents to $ 55.70 per barrel at 0917 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) fell 26 cents to $ 52.65.

Brent’s six-month relegation, for which next delivery contracts are cheaper, has fallen to a low since January 5, indicating an easing of bullish sentiment.

China, the second largest consumer of oil in the world, has seen the largest daily increase in new COVID-19 cases in more than 10 months, as infections in a northeastern province nearly tripled.

Governments across Europe have announced tougher and longer coronavirus lockdowns, with vaccinations not expected to have a significant impact in the coming months.

Oil producers face an unprecedented challenge in balancing supply and demand as factors including the pace and response to COVID-19 vaccines cloud the outlook, an International Energy Agency (IEA) official said.

“This (price) retracement, although it may last more than a day, should not be prolonged and violent,” PVM analyst Tamas Varga said, indicating that Saudi Arabia is restricting oil supply to some Asian buyers. .

In support of prices, total crude oil imports from China increased 7.3% in 2020 despite the coronavirus shock, with record arrivals in the second and third quarters as refineries expanded operations and low prices encouraged storage. showed the customs data.

Also, giving a basis to prices, U.S. crude oil inventories last week fell more-than-expected, even as gasoline and distillate inventories rose as refineries increased production to the highest level since August, he said. the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday. [EIA/S]

Raising hopes of increased oil demand was a hefty US COVID-19 aid package, which President-elect Joe Biden is expected to unveil Thursday.

Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Additional reporting by Jessica Jaganathan in SINGAPORE; Editing by David Goodman