Perhaps buoyed by speculation that oil demand in China is set to plunge as much as 20% if not more on the coronavirus “demand shock”, on Tuesday OPEC slashed it forecast for global oil demand by almost a quarter million barrels per day as the coronavirus pandemic cripples fuel use in China, leaving the cartel facing a renewed glut despite its recent production cuts.
The cartel reduced projections for demand growth in the first quarter by 440,000 barrels a day, or about a third, in its monthly report, and 230,000 for the full year, one day after oil prices sank to a one-year low on Monday as the infection has idled thousand of businesses and left millions quarantined in the world’s biggest crude importer.
The plunge in oil prices has sparked a push by OPEC’s top exporter, Saudi Arabia, to push for an emergency meeting and consider new output cutbacks, following a recent Vienna meeting that ended without a consensus after Russia – the biggest non-OPEC producer – refused to comply with further cuts as it is able to weather lower prices more easily.
Ominously for Riyadh, the latest OPEC report showed that, even though many OPEC members made a strong start with fresh output curbs that took effect last month, the overhang from the virus will leave them with an even greater surplus. The group collectively pumped 28.86 million barrels a day in January, down 509,000 on the month, and if it maintains that rate there will be a surplus of 570,000 barrels a day during the second quarter, when consumption slows down seasonally.
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