India COVID surge drives oil prices down for second straight day

India, the world’s third-largest oil user, has seen record numbers of new COVID cases and deaths recently.

Oil storage facilities
US stockpiles of crude oil and distillate rose unexpectedly in the week ended April 16 [File: Drone Base/Reuters]

Oil prices have fallen for a second day on concerns that soaring COVID-19 cases in India will drive down fuel demand in the world’s third-biggest oil importer.

Brent crude futures for June fell 52 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $66.05 a barrel at 01:57 GMT on Wednesday, after dropping 48 cents on Tuesday.

United States West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for June fell 56 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $62.11 a barrel. The May contract expired on Tuesday down 1.5 percent at $62.44.

“You’ve seen refiners there (in India) scale back runs because demand has fallen with the spread of lockdowns. That’s clearly weighing on the market and sentiment,” said Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at National Australia Bank.

India, also the world’s third-largest oil user, on Tuesday reported its worst daily death toll from COVID-19 and is facing an oxygen supply crisis to treat patients. Large parts of the country are now under lockdown due to a huge second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

WTI, Brent crude oil price chart [Bloomberg]

Crude stockpiles rising

Further weighing on the market, data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) industry group showed US crude oil and distillate stocks rose in the week ended April 16, according to two market sources, compared with analysts’ forecasts for declines in crude and distillate inventories.

Crude stocks rose by 436,000 barrels, API reported, according to the sources. Analysts polled by the Reuters news agency had expected a 3 million barrel drawdown in crude stocks.

Distillate stocks, which include diesel, heating oil and jet fuel, rose by 655,000 barrels, compared with analysts’ forecasts for a 1 million barrel decline.

The US Energy Information Administration will release its inventory data for last week later on Wednesday.

Analysts said despite the pandemic hotspots in places like India and growing concerns in Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest oil user, signs are still positive for a fuel demand recovery in the US, Europe and the United Kingdom.

“Driving is soaring in the UK as the vaccine rollout accelerates. Such is also the case in the US, where drivers consume over 10 percent of the world’s oil,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

Source: Reuters