Oil prices tumbled on Monday, amid fresh worries that spreading COVID cases in China will hurt demand, adding to concerns that Federal Reserve tightening could also weaken prospects for the commodity.
West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery
tumbled 3.7%, or $3.75, to $98.33 a barrel. On Friday, oil settled 1.7% lower at $102.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and fell about 4.1% for the week, FactSet data show.
June Brent crude
fell nearly 4%, or $3.92, to $102.23 a barrel. The contract fell nearly 1.6% to $106.65 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe on Friday, falling 4.5% for the week.
May natural gas
declined by 2% to $6.403 per million British thermal units, following a 10.5% slump last week.
China growth worries added to an overall risk-averse mood across global markets on Monday that washed over commodity prices. Iron ore and steel futures slumped in Asia over fears that Beijing could face hash COVID restrictions, echoing what has been seen in Shanghai, where weeks of lockdowns have affected millions.
Beijing has ordered mass testing for millions amid a spike in COVID cases, with reports of long lines at supermarkets as residents scrambled to stock up, according to BBC reports.
“It seems that China is the elephant in the room and markets feel that slowing China growth could materially change the supply/demand equation on international markets,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, in a note to clients.
Halley said he’s sensing a shift in sentiment for the commodity, even amid tight supplies, because Asian markets ignored a couple of key headlines on Monday.
Firstly, Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive vice president, told The London Times, that the EU was preparing “smart sanctions” on Russian energy imports, which would include “some form” of an oil embargo.
Given that many European countries are dependent on Russian oil and gas, a ban on those commodities is not supported by all, with Germany and Hungary among those opposed. But Halley said he has “reservations that any European energy sanctions on Russian oil and natural gas can be ignored for long.”
As well, the market has dismissed heavy damage to a major Libyan oil terminal during recent clashes, Halley said.
“Preliminary assessments indicate that 29 sites, including oil derivatives tanks and several other tanks, have been damaged,” Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. said in a statement late Saturday.
Oil prices dropped in step with a rout for U.S. stock markets on Friday, as the market is fretting that the Federal Reserve may not get the balance right, as it seeks to curb inflation with interest rate rises without triggering a recession. U.S. equity futures
pointed to continued losses on Monday.