New York — Oil prices edged lower on Friday as Russia said it needed more time before committing to output cuts sought by other large producers as the coronavirus outbreak fans worries about global crude demand.
Oil was on track for its fifth straight weekly decline, as speculators have backed away due to weaker consumption figures and expectations that the virus, which has killed more than 600 people, will remain a drag on demand.
Brent crude futures lost 30 cents to $54.63 a barrel by 1:41 p.m. EST(1841 GMT). Brent was headed for a 6% loss for the week. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 44 cents to $50.51 a barrel, on track for a 2% weekly loss.
This week, a panel advising OPEC+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia, suggested provisionally cutting output by 600,000 barrels per day (bpd).
On Friday, Russia Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Moscow needed more time to assess the situation.
“Russia’s lack of commitment thus far to such a deal is providing one additional bearish element that is currently precluding the complex from sustaining price advances,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.
Prices have fallen about a fifth since the outbreak of the virus in the city of Wuhan in China. The country is the world’s biggest importer of crude, taking in roughly 10 million bpd in 2019.
Novak predicted global oil demand may fall by 150,000 to 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2020 in part because of the virus.
The OPEC+ group this year deepened existing cuts to roughly 1.7 million bpd, nearly 2% of global demand, yet prices have remained in a narrow band. Producers in OPEC+ are scheduled to meet in Vienna on March 5-6, although the meeting could be brought forward because of concerns surrounding the virus.
Forecaster Eurasia Group said it estimates a contraction in oil demand in China of as much 3 million bpd in the first quarter from 2019 levels.
Sources have told Reuters that Chinese policymakers are preparing measures, including more fiscal spending and interest rate cuts, amid expectations the outbreak will have a devastating impact on first-quarter growth.