Oil prices fall further as China extends Covid curbs

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Oil prices fell on Thursday, extending sharp losses from the previous session, as China’s extension of lockdown measures to curb the Covid-19 spread exacerbated concerns that a slowdown in economic activity globally would hit fuel demand. Brent crude futures lost 40 cents, or 0.4%, to $87.60 per barrel by 1002 GMT, near a late-January low. US crude futures were down 41 cents, or 0.5%, at $81.53 a barrel, near a mid-January low.

Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen said the decline was “driven by continued demand worries related to the risk of growth-killing rate hikes from central banks battling runaway inflation and China’s continued economic struggle caused by its Covid-zero policy”.

China’s Chengdu extended a lockdown for a majority of its more than 21 million residents on Thursday to prevent further transmission of Covid-19 while millions more in other parts the country were told to shun travel in upcoming holidays. 

Meanwhile a number of central banks around the world are expected to begin a new round of interest rate hikes to fight inflation.

The European Central Bank is expected to raise interest rates sharply when it meets later on Thursday. A US Federal Reserve meeting follows on Sept. 21.

Prices drew some support, however, from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to halt the country’s oil and gas exports if price caps are imposed by European buyers. The European Union proposed capping Russian gas prices only hours later, raising the risk of rationing in some of the world’s richest countries this winter if Moscow carries out its threat. Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has already halted flows from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, cutting off a substantial percentage of supply to Europe.

(Reuters)