Oil falls as China’s COVID-19 outbreak imperils demand outlook

Potential demand hit from China lockdowns is a major threat to the oil market right now, analysts warn.

Residents take part in a round of COVID-19 testing during a lockdown in Shanghai, China
China’s travails with COVID-19 add another source of volatility to an oil market that has been buffeted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine [File: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg]

Oil dropped at the start of the week on concerns that a spreading Covid-19 outbreak in China will impact consumption even further.

West Texas Intermediate futures slid as much as 6.7%, falling below the key $100 level on Monday. Rising coronavirus cases in Beijing sparked jitters about an unprecedented lockdown of the capital, while Shanghai reported record daily deaths over the weekend. The world’s biggest crude importer is heading for the worst oil demand shock since the early days of the pandemic.

China’s travails with Covid-19 add another source of volatility to an oil market that’s been buffeted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has fanned inflation, and the European Union is discussing measures to restrict oil imports from Russia, matching steps taken by the U.S. and U.K.

Potential demand destruction from China lockdowns “is the number one issue in the market right now,” said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA. Demand is down 1.2 million barrels a day since the lockdowns in Shanghai began, and a shutdown of the capital could impact demand even more so, he added.

WTI falls below key marker as China lockdowns raise demand concerns

China has implemented lockdowns in a number of cities as it pursues a Covid Zero strategy. In Beijing, the government has expanded testing to 12 districts from April 26-30. As the risks to consumption escalate, money managers have turned the least bullish on WTI since April 2020, when prices turned negative. China’s oil demand averaged 13.3 million barrels a day in March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

PricesWTI for June delivery dropped $5.28 to $96.79 a barrel at 1:09 p.m. in New York.Brent for June settlement dropped $5.85 to $100.80 a barrel.

The U.S. oil benchmark remains about 35% higher this year, despite recent weakness. The market is poised for additional supply, adding to bearish signs. Libya is expected to resume output from shuttered fields in the coming days, while the CPC oil terminal on Russia’s Black Sea coast has resumed regular operations after one of two moorings damaged in a storm was repaired.

Related news:

  • Asian oil refiners are shunning a major export grade from the Russian Far East due to sanctions on a tanker company that ships the cargoes.
  • Libya’s oil ministry said fields shut down by protesters may reopen within days, potentially allowing the OPEC member to get back to full production.
  • Commodity markets are in line for a pivotal week as a cascade of earnings from the industry’s biggest names arrives just as China’s deepening Covid-19 crisis spurs fresh turmoil, a ban of palm oil exports from Indonesia threatens quicker food inflation and the war in Ukraine drags on.
Source: Bloomberg