Oil prices steady as third storm in month takes aims at US

SINGAPORE: Oil prices edged higher on Monday as a tropical storm took aim for the US Gulf of Mexico region halting some production, though price gains were capped by the potential return of oil output in Libya and a continued rise in coronavirus cases.

Brent crude was up 9 cents, or 0.2pc, at $43.24 a barrel by 0230 GMT, while US crude was up 10 cents, or 0.2pc, to $42.21 a barrel.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc halted some oil production and began evacuating workers from a US Gulf of Mexico platform, the company said on Saturday.

Tropical Storm Beta was predicted to bring 1 foot (30 centimetres) of rain to parts of coastal Texas and Louisiana as the 23rd named storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season moves ashore on Monday night, the National Hurricane Center said.

Oil and gas producers had been restarting their offshore operations over the weekend after being disrupted by Sally. Some 17pc of U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production and nearly 13pc of natural gas output went offline on Saturday in the face of Hurricane Sally’s waves and winds.

Elsewhere, Libya’s National Oil Corp lifted force majeure on what it deemed secure oil ports and facilities on Saturday, but said the measure would remain in place for facilities where fighters remain.

“The market can ill afford more crude hitting the market,” ANZ analysts said in a note on Monday.

A resurgence of virus cases globally is also acting as a brake on crude demand. More than 30.78 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 954,843 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

“It is hard to get excited about a pickup in crude demand as the virus is surging in France, Spain, and the UK, along with concerns the US appears poised for at least one more cycle in the fall and winter,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“Even if energy markets don’t see Libyan production return or if Hurricane season eases, oil prices can’t shake off the dwindling demand outlook.”

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