Oil falls more than 1% as surging COVID-19 cases stoke demand fears

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Monday, extending last week’s losses, as a jump in COVID-19 infections in the United States and Europe raised alarms over crude demand, while the prospect of increased supply also hurt sentiment.

FILE PHOTO: The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, U.S., November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo

Brent crude LCOc1 was down by 53 cents, or 1.3%, at $41.24 by 0052 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) dropped 53 cents, or 1.3%, to $39.32, having fallen more than a dollar shortly after the start of trading.

Brent fell 2.7% last week and WTI dropped 2.5%.

The United States reported its highest number yet of new coronavirus infections in two days through Saturday, while in France new cases hit a record of more than 50,000 on Sunday, underlining the severity of the outbreak.

On the supply side, Libya’s National Oil Corp on Friday ended its force majeure on exports from two key ports and said production would reach 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in four weeks, a quicker ramp-up than many analysts had predicted.

OPEC+, a grouping of producers including the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia, is also set to increase output by 2 million bpd in January 2021 after cutting production by a record amount earlier this year.

“A resurgence in COVID-19 cases in Europe and North America has stopped the recovery in demand in its tracks,” ANZ Research said in a note.

“If market conditions worsen, (OPEC+) will have no choice but to delay the increase of quotas by a month or two at its meeting on 1 December,” ANZ said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated last week he may agree to extending OPEC+ oil production reductions.

In the United States, energy companies increased their rig count by five to take the total to 287 in the week to Oct. 23, the most since May, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co BKR.N said. The rig count is an indicator of future supply. [RIG/U]

Still, investors increased their net long positions in U.S. crude futures and options during the week through Oct. 20, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commision said on Friday.

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