Oil plunges more than 5% despite stimulus efforts
By Jessica Resnick-Ault NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices plunged more than 5% on Friday and were on track for a fifth straight weekly loss as demand destruction caused by the coronavirus outweighed stimulus efforts by policymakers around the world. Both contracts are down nearly two thirds this year and the coronavirus-related slump in economic activity and fuel demand has forced massive retrenchment in investment by oil and other energy companies.
By Jessica Resnick-Ault
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices plunged more than 5% on Friday and were on track for a fifth straight weekly loss as demand destruction caused by the coronavirus outweighed stimulus efforts by policymakers around the world.
Both contracts are down nearly two thirds this year and the coronavirus-related slump in economic activity and fuel demand has forced massive retrenchment in investment by oil and other energy companies.
Brent crude was down $2.03, or 7.7%, at $24.31 a barrel by 12:03 p.m. EDT (1603 GMT). U.S. crude was down $1.29, or 5.7%, at $21.31.
"We ran out of ammunition to support the market," said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. "The government used up all their bullets this week - next week the market is on its own."
With 3 billion people in lockdown, global oil requirements could drop by 20%, International Energy Agency head Fatih Birol said as he called on major producers such as Saudi Arabia to help to stabilise oil markets.
The calls may not be enough to bring the market back into balance.
"We have our doubts about whether Saudi Arabia will allow itself to be persuaded so easily to return from the path of revenge that it only recently embarked upon," said Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg, referring to the price war being waged between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The Group of 20 major economies on Thursday pledged to inject more than $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus and "do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic".
Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives are determined to pass a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill by Saturday at the latest, hoping to provide quick help as deaths mount and the economy reels.
Mainland China reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus case in three days and 54 new imported cases as Beijing ordered airlines to implement sharp reductions in international flights, for fear travellers could reignite the outbreak.
As global oil demand plummets, Saudi Arabia is struggling to find customers for its extra oil, undermining its bid to seize market share by expanding production.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its de facto leader Saudi Arabia this month failed to reach agreement with other producers, including Russia, to curb oil production to support prices.
But the head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund, Kirill Dmitriev, told Reuters a new supply pact between OPEC and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, might be possible if other countries join.
"It does not seem as though there is anything the Saudis or the broader OPEC+ group can do to push the market significantly higher," said ING analyst Warren Patterson.
"The demand destruction we are seeing does mean the level of (production) cuts that would be needed by the group would be just too much to stomach," he said.
Russian Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin said the coronavirus outbreak has dented global oil demand by 15 million to 20 million barrels per day (bpd).
Oil and gas research group JBC Energy said it had "drastically" reduced its oil demand forecast for 2020, expecting a decline of more than 7.4 million bpd on average.
(Additional Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London and Aaron Sheldrick and Sonali Paul in Tokyo; Editing by Jane Merriman, David Goodman and David Gregorio)
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