Oil Markets Continue Slide as Coronavirus Death Toll Rises
Crude oil prices continued their precipitous slide this week as fears of a global demand shock caused by the spread of the deadly Coronavirus take a firm hold of investor sentiment. The death toll from the virus rose to nearly 500 on Wednesday, against more than 24,000 confirmed cases in China and at least 230 cases in 27 countries and territories outside mainland China. According to data released by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), money managers including hedge funds have been heavy sellers in the F&O market for crude oil and petroleum products since the beginning of the year, with selling having accelerated over the past week. Brent crude oil prices have fallen about 20% since the start of the year on worsening fears of a collapse in Chinese oil demand, as over 60 million inhabitants in Chinese cities and towns remain under curfew to prevent the spread of the infection. In response, OPEC acting in concert with certain other producer nations (together referred to as OPEC+), is considering cuts of between 500,000 to 1 million barrels per day to offset an equivalent projected drop in global demand during 2020.