Oil prices declined on Thursday due to a growth of the number of coronavirus victims in China and the cancellation of new flights to major cities of the country, as well as due to a jump in the U.S. inventories.
The international benchmark index for Brent futures tumbled by 1.49 percent, to $58,05 per barrel, while WTI March futures eased by 0.39 percent, to $52,61 per barrel at 0938 GMT.
Nevertheless, oil prices stabilized in the last days after the sharpest decline, when the quotes touched three-month lows. The markets are trying to assess the degree of impact of the virus on economic growth and demand for oil and petroleum products.
The 2nd flight with air travellers evacuated from Wuhan, where the outbreak began, landed in Japan on Thursday, while nine people had a fever or cough, according to NHK report. Meantime, the death toll exceeded 7.700 in China.
Airlines around the world suspend or reduce direct flights to major Chinese cities, while authorities warn of the dangers of such trips, thus having weigh on the number of passengers.
In the meantime, the World Health Organization Emergency Committee later on Thursday will hold another meeting to reconsider whether the fast-spreading virus should be recognized as a global emergency.
Additional pressure on the oil market was exerted by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which showed greater than expected growth in oil inventories in the U.S. over a week – by 3.55 million barrels against the forecast of 0.48 million barrels.