Oil falls 4% as virus cases rise

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    By Jessica Resnick-Ault

    NEW YORK – Oil settled below $40 a barrel on Friday as rising global coronavirus cases stoked fears about lackluster demand.

    France reported record cases, intensifying concerns that additional lockdowns in Europe could weigh on demand.

    Brent crude settled down $1.48, or 3.62 percent, at $39.45 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) dropped $1.65, or 4.25 percent to $37.14 a barrel.

    Still, both contracts gained on the week with Brent up 5.8 percent, and US crude rising 4.3 percent.

    Diminishing prospects of a large US stimulus package were also weighing on the market.

    US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday that economic statistics including a 1 percentage point drop in the US unemployment rate showed that Congress should enact a smaller coronavirus stimulus package that is highly targeted at the effects of the pandemic.

    “Crude oil is very sensitive to the stimulus expectations, which just took a hit for the worse,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho. “The coronavirus situation is as negative a demand indicator as you can get,” he said.