NEW YORK – Oil prices edged lower, dragged down by concerns that a spike in COVID-19 cases in the United States and Europe will continue to drag on demand in two of the world’s biggest fuel-consuming regions.
Brent crude futures fell 23 cents to settle at $42.93 a barrel, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped 8 cents to settle at $40.88 a barrel.
Brent rose 0.2% for the week, while WTI was on track to gain 0.7%.
“The reality is that we’re now seeing a pretty active spread of the pandemic across Europe and it’s spreading again in North America, and that potentially will weigh on oil demand recovery,” said Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at the National Bank of Australia.
Some European countries were reviving curfews and lockdowns to fight a surge in new coronavirus cases, with Britain imposing tougher COVID-19 restrictions in London on Friday.
OPEC+ is set to ease its current supply cuts of 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2 million bpd in January.
In the United States, drillers have begun adding oil rigs since cutting them to a 15-year low in August. This week, they added the most oil rigs in a week since January, increasing the count by 12 to 205, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co. said.
Meanhwile, Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) rose to their highest in more than 11 months last week, underpinned by expectations that an anticipated cold winter will stoke demand for the fuel used in heating.
The average LNG price for December delivery into northeast Asia was estimated at $5.80 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), up 10 cents from the previous week.