Crude oil prices reversed course after an early bounce on Tuesday, as concerns over coronavirus curbs combined with slowing factory activity in key markets weighed on sentiment.
Brent crude oil futures shed 5 cents, or 0.1%, to $72.84 a barrel, as of 0309 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 8 cents, or 0.1%, at $71.18 a barrel.
Futures in New York declined 3.6% on Monday. The virus is clouding the outlook for consumption as China faced a fresh outbreak and infections in Sydney matched a record. Amid the surge in cases, barrels from some key OPEC producers are hitting the market, also causing concern. Meanwhile, data indicated that China’s economic activity eased in July.
ANZ analysts in a note highlighted resurgent economic risks to major oil consumer China from the coronavirus pandemic. “Cases of the highly contagious Delta variant have emerged in 14 of 32 provinces. This could see further mobility restrictions introduced,” ANZ analysts wrote.
They also flagged slowing manufacturing activity as a key concern, to both China and the United States.
“China’s economic activity continued to ease in July, with the official Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index falling to 50.4 from 50.9 in June,” ANZ said.
“Manufacturing activity also slowed in the U.S., with the ISM index falling to 59.5” – the lowest reading since January — from 60.6 in June.
Oil Tanker Attack in International Waterways
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israel vowed to respond to a deadly drone attack on a tanker last week in a major waterway for global oil shipments that they blamed on Iran. Middle East foes Iran and Israel have traded multiple accusations of shipping attacks in recent months. But Thursday’s strike off the coast of Oman, which Tehran denied carrying out, was the first to kill crew members — a Romanian and a Briton.
Elsewhere, U.S. crude and product inventories likely declined last week with both distillates and gasoline stockpiles predicted to have fallen for a third straight week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.