Oil prices mixed as coronavirus concerns undercut support from lower US crude stocks

Oil prices mixed as coronavirus concerns undercut support from lower US crude stocks

Oil prices were mostly flat on Thursday, as a boost from lower-than-expected US crude stocks that lifted the market to five-month highs in the previous session gave way to fuel demand concerns amid rising coronavirus infections.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures eased 3 cents, or 0.1 per cent, to $42.16 a barrel by 0436 GMT, while Brent crude LCOc1 futures rose 9 cents or nearly 0.2 per cent to $45.25.

The two benchmark contracts rose more than 1 per cent on Wednesday to their highest since March 6, completing a four-day rally, after the Energy Information Administration reported a much bigger than expected drop in US crude stockpiles.

However, investors remained wary of rising US refined product inventories at a time when US central bankers said the resurgence in cases was slowing the economic recovery in the world's biggest oil consumer.

EIA data showed distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, climbed to a 38-year-high, and gasoline inventories unexpectedly rose for a second week in a row.

"It is difficult to get overly constructive towards the oil market with demand having stalled and this product overhang," ING Economics said in a note on Thursday.

The US EIA calculated gasoline demand remains around 8.6 million barrels per day, around 10 per cent lower than a year earlier, just as the US driving season, which ANZ Research called the "world's biggest seasonal demand period", was winding down.

Still, recent declines in the US dollar have supported higher oil prices. Since oil futures are priced in dollars, crude prices tend to rise to offset the weaker currency.

"Since oil is priced in dollars, that is good for oil," AxiCorp market strategist Stephen Innes said in a note.

The dollar logged its biggest monthly percentage fall in a decade against a basket of six currencies .DXY in July and a Reuters poll found analysts expect it to continue falling into next year.