Oil falls as coronavirus death toll climbs, US inventories rise
Oil prices fell on Thursday as the death toll from the new virus in China climbed to 170 and more airlines cancelled flights to the country’s major cities, while rising US crude inventories added to the negative tone.
Brent was down 24 cents, or 0.4%, to $59.57 a barrel by 0152 GMT, having risen 0.5% on Wednesday. US crude was down 26 cents, or 0.5%, to $53.07 a barrel.
A second flight of Japanese evacuees from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started, landed in Japan on Thursday, with nine showing symptoms of fever or coughing, broadcaster NHK reported. Infections in China have passed 7,700.
“It’s becoming more evident to market participants the balance of risk will remain in the flu cycle much longer than expected,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp.
The bigger-than-expected gains in US crude oil inventories last week also meant “oil prices were dealt the cruellest hand of them all,” Innes said.
Crude stocks rose by more than seven times market expectations, gaining 3.5 million barrels in the week to Jan. 24, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.
Gasoline stocks rose to a record high, increasing for a 12th consecutive week to 261.1 million barrels, the EIA said.