Oil posted its second weekly loss for the month as a surge in US coronavirus cases casts doubts on the market’s prospects for recovery. New York futures closed at $38 and London at $41 on Friday. The price slump comes just days after NY oil closed above $40 for the first time since early March and following a run of weekly gains that lifted oil from its historic plunge below zero in April. For the immediate future, the pandemic course seems to be in control of the oil markets. If the increasing number of cases continues to swamp medical facilities, it is likely the renewed shutdowns will lower demand again.
New York oil futures rose 2.3 percent on Friday to close at $39.75, the highest level since March 6th. The 9.6 percent increase for the week marks the seventh gain in the last eight weeks. Brent settled at $42.19. Oil traders and Saudi Aramco talked up the strength of the demand recovery in recent days, and prices for some of the world’s major oil products have begun to move higher. OPEC+ assurances that output cuts would happen this time contributed to higher prices.
Oil futures fell by some 8 percent last Thursday, before closing out a quiet Friday at $36.26 in New York and $38.73 in London. Over the previous six weeks, prices have been climbing due to the OPEC+ and US shale production cuts, and the easing of pandemic lockdowns in China, Europe, and North America. The sharp price drop on Thursday was caused, in part, by an increase in US crude stockpiles to record highs, a grim Federal Reserve outlook for the US economy, and reports that the coronavirus epidemic is spreading rapidly in some parts of the US.
Oil prices posted a sixth weekly gain in London, more than doubling to $42.30 a barrel since April as demand recovers from the lockdowns. NY futures closed at 39.55 on Friday, up $2.14 for the day. The price jump came after the US Labor Department reported that US non-farm payrolls increased by 2.5 million jobs in May, far exceeding market expectations for a fall of more than 7 million jobs. Later it was learned that the Labor Department’s May survey had methodological problems arising from many surveyed workers not knowing whether they were “unemployed” or just temporarily furloughed from their regular jobs.
Prices: Futures were volatile last week with prices bouncing between $31 and $35 a barrel in response to the latest news. Oil closed out May on Friday with a record monthly gain of 88 percent on hopes demand for oil would continue to rise as economies reopen and crude production continues to fall. The status of the US-China trade agreement is in doubt as relations continue to deteriorate and resurgence of the coronavirus as lockdowns are lifted will be a significant factor in the movement of oil prices during the next few weeks.