Oil gains as optimism grows economic impact of coronavirus outbreak may be brief


TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices gained 1% on Wednesday, with Brent rising a seventh straight day, amid broad optimism as new coronavirus cases fell for a second day in China and concerns rose over supply after a U.S. move to cut more Venezuelan crude from the market.

FILE PHOTO: Pump jacks operate at sunset in Midland, Texas, U.S., February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

Brent crude LCOc1 was up by 59 cents, or 1%, at $58.34 a barrel by 0439 GMT, while U.S. oil CLc1 was up 55 cents, or 1.1%, at $52.60 a barrel.

China is still struggling to get manufacturing going again in the world’s second-largest economy, after imposing stringent city lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain the virus that has now killed more than 2,000 people, but investors remain optimistic that the economic fallout may be short-lived.

Official data showed that new cases in China fell for a second straight day, although the World Health Organization has cautioned there is not enough data to know if the epidemic was being contained.

Brent has risen nearly 10% since hitting a low for this year so far last week, most recently supported by a U.S. decision on Tuesday to blacklist a trading subsidiary of Russia’s Rosneft (ROSN.MM) that President Donald Trump’s administration said provides a financial lifeline to Venezuela’s government.

The United States slapped sanctions on Rosneft Trading SA, the Geneva-based unit.

The Swiss subsidiary “has been Venezuela’s primary conduit for brokering cargos, which find their way predominantly to refineries in India and China,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp.

“Throttling this Asian supply channel will provide some support for oil prices,” he said.

Prices have also been supported by hopes that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies will deepen supply cuts.

The grouping, known as OPEC+, has been withholding supply to support prices and meets next month to decide a response to the downturn in demand resulting from the coronavirus epidemic.

OPEC+ wants to “prevent the emergence of a large supply overhang caused by slumping demand amid the health crisis centered in China, the world’s biggest importer of crude oil,” Eurasia Group said in a note.

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Tom Hogue

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