Oil prices fall first day in four as virus concerns return

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil fell on Thursday for the first session in four amid renewed concerns about demand recovery as more restrictions are imposed to curb COVID-19 infections.

FILE PHOTO: A gas pump is seen hanging from the ceiling at a petrol station in Seoul June 27, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Brent crude was down 45 cents, or 0.6%, at $71.80 a barrel by 0222 GMT, having risen 1.7% on Wednesday.

U.S. oil was down 55 cents, or 0.8%, at $67.81 a barrel, after gaining 1.2% in the previous session.

Fresh outbreaks fuelled by the Delta variant of the coronavirus are raising concerns about the strength of the economic recovery globally, hitting demand for oil and other commodities.

“Given the risks around the Delta variant of the coronavirus, but also the accelerating vaccine programs, it’s possible that the second half of the year also sees a bit of a stop-and-go development before things (hopefully) normalize in 2022,” Eurasia Group said in a note.

Helping to boost prices around 10% through Wednesday, U.S. crude inventories fell last week for a third consecutive week while overall fuel demand increased to the most since March 2020, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

But the demand picture wasn’t entirely bullish.

“The headline draw was welcome news but a steep drop in crude exports and lacklustre jet fuel demand prevented prices from extending gains,” Edward Moya, senior analyst at OANDA, said in a note.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and jet fuel, rose last week, gaining 0.6 million barrels to 138.46 million barrels, against expectations for a 0.3 million-barrel drop, according to the EIA data. [EIA/S]

Oil stocks dropped by 3 million barrels in the week to Aug. 20, a little above than analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 2.7 million-barrel drop. At 432.6 million barrels, crude stocks were at their lowest since January 2020.

Gains this week in prices have been helped by a major outage in Mexico, where a fire on Sunday on an offshore platform killed at least five workers and knocked out a bit over 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production.

Pemex has so far recovered 71,000 bpd of production and in the next few hours expects to add an additional 110,000 bpd.

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Tom Hogue

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