Stack towers and pipework stands at the Total SE petrochemical plant in Le Havre, France, on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.Picture: NATHAN LAINE/BLOOMBERG
Stack towers and pipework stands at the Total SE petrochemical plant in Le Havre, France, on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020.Picture: NATHAN LAINE/BLOOMBERG

Singapore/Melbourne — Oil prices slid on Thursday after data showed US crude stockpiles unexpectedly rose last week, stoking concern about a sluggish recovery in fuel demand as coronavirus cases continue to surge in many countries.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 24 US cents, or 0.63%, to $37.81 a barrel at 4.17am GMT, after climbing 3.5% on Wednesday.

Brent crude futures dropped 17c, or 0.42% to $40.62 a barrel, after rising 2.5% on Wednesday.

The oil market is under pressure on the prospect of subdued demand and rising supply, ANZ analysts said in a note. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release official weekly inventory data later on Thursday, a day later than normal following this week’s US Labour Day holiday.

"[Refinery] maintenance season and a cautious approach from refiners should keep crude oil demand soft,” the bank said, referring to regular scheduled outages at oil processing complexes.

ANZ also said China’s imports are likely to level off as “teapot”, or independent refineries, reach their maximum annual crude import quotas.

With coronavirus cases rising in several US states, the country’s crude stockpiles increased by 3-million barrels in the week to September 4, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed on Wednesday. That compared with analysts’ forecasts of a draw of 1.4-million barrels.

“If the EIA confirms a crude oil build later today, it would be the first US stock build since mid-July,” ING analysts said.

The EIA already cut its 2020 world oil demand growth forecast by 210,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 8.32-million bpd.

In a further bearish sign, leading commodity traders are booking tankers to store crude oil and diesel on the water, with supply outpacing consumption, according to trading sources and shipping data.

The rising stockpiles come ahead of a meeting on September 17 of the market monitoring panel of Opec and allies including Russia, together known as Opec+, which in August trimmed supply curbs from earlier this year on expectations demand would improve.

“This issue will be front and centre ... next week, where we expect a strong statement that if markets continue to weaken, the producer group will be prepared to trim output further,” Citi analysts said in a note.

Reuters

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