Oil slips on demand worries, Hong Kong tensions

CNBC

Reuters
KEY POINTS
  • Brent crude futures fell 21 cents, or 0.6%, to $35.96 by 0120 GMT.
  • U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 31 cents, or 0.9%, at $34.04 a barrel.
An aerial view shows a cruise ship (L) and tanker vessel anchored near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 28, 2020 off the coast of Long Beach, California.
An aerial view shows a cruise ship (L) and tanker vessel anchored near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 28, 2020 off the coast of Long Beach, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images

Oil prices fell on Wednesday on revived concerns over how quickly fuel demand will recover even as coronavirus lockdowns begin to ease in many countries, while U.S.-China tensions added to negative sentiment.

Brent crude futures fell 21 cents, or 0.6%, to $35.96 by 0120 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 31 cents, or 0.9%, at $34.04 a barrel.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and producers including Russia, a grouping referred to as OPEC+, are cutting their output by nearly 10 million barrels per day in May-June to buttress prices as measures to rein in the coronavirus pandemic have slashed fuel demand.

In the United States, where some states are opening up after lockdowns, optimism about an increase in demand has supported sentiment, but the recovery is fragile, analysts caution. The Memorial Day holiday just passed typically heralds the start of the peak U.S. demand season.

“Early estimates suggest gasoline demand is down by as much as 30% from last year as people stay close to home,” ANZ Research said in a note.

Some analysts and banks are predicting a balanced oil market as soon as June, but that could be too optimistic, according to Eurasia Group.

There is … a significant risk of repeat outbreaks and lockdowns. Even without them, some restrictions — especially on aviation — will remain in place,” it said in a note.

Still as U.S. demand picks up, however slowly, there are signs that inventories are falling. U.S. crude inventories are forecast to have fallen for a third week last week, according a Reuters poll of analysts.

Prices were also under pressure after U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said China was making “a big mistake” with national security legislation on Hong Kong.

Beijing’s proposed security law would reduce the territory’s separate legal status. China’s parliament is expected to approve it by Thursday.