Oil Ekes Out Weekly Gain Despite Covid, OPEC Concerns

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Friday October 16, 2020

Crude traders on Friday were rattled by a confidential document from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that discussed the possibility of the second wave of Covid pushing the oil market into surplus next year - and as a result, prices on Friday dipped, albeit minimally - and not enough to prevent a second week of gains.

Brent fell 23 cents to settle at $42.93 per barrel (but rose 0.2 percent for the week), while West Texas Intermediate dropped 8 cents to settle at $40.88 per barrel (but gained 0.7 percent for the week).

Expressing a familiar sentiment, Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at the National Bank of Australia, worried that "We're now seeing a pretty active spread of the pandemic across Europe and it's spreading again in North America, and that potentially will weigh on oil demand recovery."

The OPEC document was seen by media sources and appeared to be part of a process in which worst-case scenarios were discussed by members, and while it raised concerns, Mohammad Barkindo, secretary general for OPEC, gave his assurance that oil prices will not plunge steeply again when his organization meets to set policy at the end of this month.

Still, the rising infection rates and governments imposing new restrictions continued to influence virtually every corner of the energy industry, to the point where softening demand in China in the final quarter of 2020 may cause imports to fall as much as 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd), or 14.5 percent, from the Q3 pace for the last three months of 2020, according to Shi Fenglei, associate director at IHS Markit.

But that doesn't detract from the bigger and better picture of China's economic recovery from the virus lockdowns spurring a pick-up in fuel use, with demand expected to rise further to 13.53 million bpd in the fourth quarter, up from 13.27 million bpd.

Elsewhere, U.S., stocks posted a third straight week of gains.