Oil drops more than 2%, approaches weekly loss on China virus fears
By Laila Kearney NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude prices fell more than 2% on Friday and headed for a steep weekly decline over concerns that the coronavirus will spread farther in China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, curbing travel and oil demand. The virus has prompted the suspension of public transport in 10 Chinese cities, while cases of infection have been found in several other Asian countries and the United States. Brent crude was down $1.62, or 2.6%, at $60.42 by 2:16 p.m
By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude prices fell more than 2% on Friday and headed for a steep weekly decline over concerns that the coronavirus will spread farther in China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, curbing travel and oil demand.
The virus has prompted the suspension of public transport in 10 Chinese cities, while cases of infection have been found in several other Asian countries and the United States.
"It all about the coronavirus all the time, and we're not getting signs that things are getting any better," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
Health authorities fear the infection rate could accelerate over the Lunar New Year holiday this weekend, when millions of Chinese travel.
"It looks like the fear is going into the weekend. People don't want to go too long," Flynn said.
The latest U.S. rig count data, an indication of future supply from the world's largest crude producer, did little for oil prices.
U.S. energy firms added oil rigs for a second consecutive week, raising doubts over producers' plans to continue reducing spending on new drilling for a second year in a row in 2020.
While the U.S. government's latest supply report on Thursday showed crude inventories fell 405,000 barrels last week, gasoline stockpiles grew for an 11th consecutive week to a record high.
Oil inventories in the wider industrialized world are above the five-year average, according to OPEC figures, which analysts say is limiting the impact of supply losses.
"Such is the bearish pressure that a raft of ongoing crude supply outages are not gaining much traction," said analysts at JBC Energy in a report. Such outages include the shutdown this week of the bulk of oil supply in OPEC producer Libya.
The prospect of further steps by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, could offer support going forward. OPEC+ has been mostly limiting supply since 2017 and on Jan. 1 deepened a cut in output.
Saudi Arabia's energy minister said all options are open at the next OPEC+ meeting in March, including further cuts, Al Arabiya television reported on Thursday.
The current OPEC+ deal expires at the end of March. Russia's No. 2 oil producer Lukoil
(Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London, Roslan Khasawneh and Koustav Samanta; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Barbara Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)
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By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.