Prices advanced as hurricane Ida shut off some 59% of Gulf of Mexico crude production. At the same time, the Federal Reserve reinforced its support to begin tapering stimulus by the end of the year. Futures in New York rose 2% on Friday to post the biggest weekly gain in more than a year. Federal Reserve Chair Powell said the central bank could begin reducing its monthly bond purchases this year, though it won’t be in a hurry to start raising interest rates after that. Some 49% of Gulf natural gas production was also shut ahead of the storm. The Gulf accounts for roughly 17% of the nation’s oil production, totaling about 1.7 million b/d, and 5% of its dry gas production.
Last week ended with the longest losing streak since 2019 as the dollar strengthened after the Federal Reserve signaled it would start tapering stimulus and the virus resurgence raises doubts about demand growth. West Texas Intermediate futures closed Friday 2.2% lower, tumbling for the seventh day, and extending the week’s decline to 8.9%. The pandemic remains a threat to energy demand, especially across Asia, with China restricting mobility to combat an outbreak.
While global crude demand remains on an uneven upswing, the rapid spread of the coronavirus delta variant has dented most demand projections for the rest of 2021. Asian outbreaks, especially in China, are triggering new economic restrictions. China’s zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 led to the closure of its Meishan terminal at the world’s third-busiest port — the Ningbo-Zhoushan port — which is expected to disrupt supply chains globally. WTI lost 65 cents, down to a $68.44 settlement for the week, while front-month Brent closed at $70.59. The spread of the delta variant of Covid is threatening to put an early end to the US summer driving season and spark a more precipitous downturn than usual in gasoline demand following the Labor Day holiday in early September.