Oil prices headed lower for the fifth consecutive day as increased concerns about the coronavirus prompted traders to doubt global demand. U.S. WTI futures sunk 1.52 percent as of 2:18 p.m. HK/SIN, and Brent crude futures were down 1.38 percent. Brent prices 11 percent in the past five trading sessions, while WTI is down 10.6 percent, the steepest five-day decline since August 2019. U.S. crude oil stockpiles increased by 452,000 last week, to 443.3 million, the Energy Information Administration reported, less than the 2 million-barrel increase that analysts expected. The positive news initially sent oil prices higher, but the commodity was unable to sustain the positive momentum and eventually reversed back to the downside.
On Wednesday, oil prices fell to their lowest prices in more than a year. Also on Wednesday, the first cases of coronavirus were discovered in Brazil, Georgia, and Greece, prompting global governments to increase their travel restrictions.
Analysts are now waiting for the next meeting of OPEC and its allies, which is scheduled to take place next week, and will focus on whether they should cut production further to deal with the reduced demand.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also has its spring meeting on the calendar, but according to Reuters, organizers are debating about turning the meeting into a virtual gathering in order to protect participants from the spread of the coronavirus, or perhaps scaling back the gathering’s meetings. The conference is currently scheduled from April 17-19 in Washington D.C. and is expected to draw some 10,000 people including government officials, businesspeople, and journalists from around the world. A decision is expected to be taken in the coming days.
Though the number of diagnoses in China has been steadily declining, but for the first time on Wednesday, the number of new diagnoses outside of China surpassed that within China’s borders, scaring health officials and traders, and raising questions about how the containment measures currently in place, and whether more drastic measures may be needed.