Oil prices rise on demand woes

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    MELBOURNE- Oil prices rose on Thursday as oil workers evacuated rigs in the US Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Delta, though fuel demand concerns persisted on fading chances for an economic stimulus deal in the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer.

    US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 13 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $40.08 a barrel, after falling 1.8 percent on Wednesday.

    Brent crude futures rose 20 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $42.19 a barrel, after falling 1.6 percent on Wednesday.

    With Hurricane Delta forecast to intensify into a Category 3 storm with winds of up to 120 miles per hour (193 km per hour), oil producers have evacuated 183 offshore facilities and halted nearly 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil output.

    The Gulf of Mexico produced 1.65 million bpd in July, according to the US government. The region, which accounts for 17 percent of US crude output, has been hit by several storms over the past few months, each of which only briefly dented oil output.

    Hopes for a further pick-up in US fuel demand faded as White House officials reiterated on Wednesday that “stimulus negotiations are off ” a day after President Donald Trump halted talks on a broad relief package.

    The possibility that there will be no upcoming economic support measures comes as government data on Wednesday showed demand for oil at US refineries is 13.2 percent lower than a year earlier, underscoring the plunge in fuel demand from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.