NEW YORK ⸺ Oil edged up slightly on Friday even as the COVID-19 crisis in India worsened, and prices notched a second weekly gain against the backdrop of optimism over a global economic recovery.
Brent crude futures ended the session at $68.28 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude settled at $64.90 a barrel, both up 19 cents, or 0.3%.
The two benchmarks rose by more than 1% on the week, their second consecutive weekly gain, as easing COVID-19 restrictions on movement in the United States and Europe, recovering factory operations and coronavirus vaccinations pave the way for a revival in fuel demand.
“Oil prices might still have a positive second consecutive week, but it is nothing to get energy traders excited that oil will break away from its tightening trading range. Oil’s short-term outlook remains very mixed,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA said.
In China, data showed export growth accelerated unexpectedly in April while a private survey pointed to strong expansion in service sector activity.
However, crude imports by the world’s biggest buyer fell 0.2% in April from a year earlier to 40.36 million tonnes, or 9.82 million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since December.
The recovery in oil demand, however, has been uneven as surging COVID-19 cases in India reduce fuel consumption in the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer.
India on Friday reported a record daily rise in coronavirus cases of 414,188, while deaths from COVID-19 swelled by 3,915, according to health ministry data.
“Brent came within a whisker of breaking past $70 a barrel this week but failed at the final hurdle as demand uncertainty dragged on prices,” said Stephen Brennock at oil brokerage PVM.
The resurgence of COVID-19 in countries such as India, Japan and Thailand is hindering gasoline demand recovery, energy consultancy FGE said in a client note, though some of the lost demand has been offset by countries such as China, where recent Labour Day holiday travel surpassed 2019 levels.
“Gasoline demand in the U.S. and parts of Europe is faring relatively well,” FGE said.
“Further out, we could see demand pick up as lockdowns are eased and pent-up demand is released during the summer driving season.”
In the United States, job growth unexpectedly slowed in April, likely restrained by worker shortages that have left businesses scrambling to meet booming demand as the economy reopens.
The U.S. oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose eight to 448 this week, its highest since April 2020, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said. Since hitting a record low in August, the number of drilling rigs have been growing modestly along with the recovery in oil prices. [RIG/U]
Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar; Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London, Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Louise Heavens; Reuters