By Grant Smith
West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery was little changed at $51.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 1:25 p.m. London time. It climbed 2.5% on Wednesday. Brent for April settlement declined 5 cents to $55.74 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.
At least four Asian oil refiners will take delivery of less Saudi Arabian crude than planned in March as the outbreak dents demand for fuel and creates a glut of alternative supplies, according to people with knowledge of the companies’ imports. Several shipments of liquid petroleum gas have been resold and diverted away from China, according to shipping intelligence firm Vortexa Ltd.
Hopes that OPEC and its partners might imminently step in to shore up the market were also starting to fray.
Russia, which has so far resisted pressure from Saudi Arabia to consider fresh production cuts, hasn’t yet decided on whether action is needed and will settle its position in a “timely” way, a Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday.
“There are two factors driving short-term prices,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA. “First is the ebb and flow of coronavirus statistics, and the second is the anticipation that Russia will eventually agree to cooperate with its OPEC counterparts for additional supply cuts.”
In another sign of weakening consumption, the U.S. reported the biggest weekly jump in crude stockpiles in three months.