Oil futures were trading on either side of unchanged on Thursday as commodity traders contended with rising cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and some other countries that may threaten to unsettle demand for crude, even as a weekly fall in American gasoline supplies suggested an improvement in energy appetite.
“Gasoline stocks have lots to do with sheltering the oil price as they declined by amounts that were not expected and showed that road fuel demand is becoming robust again,” wrote Louise Dickson, oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy, in a Thursday note.
“Such news would normally lift the market, but under the current conditions they just help oil prices largely maintain their levels, instead of falling much by COVID-19-related negativity,” the analyst wrote.
On Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday that U.S. crude inventories rose by 5.7 million barrels for the week ended July 3. That followed a fall of 7.2 million barrels the week before and compared with a forecast by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts for an average decline of 3.7 million barrels. The American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday reported an increase of about 2 million barrels.
West Texas Intermediate crude for August slipped 9 cents, or 0.2%, at $40.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after climbing 0.7% on Wednesday.
Global benchmark Brent oil for September added 6 cents, or 0.2%, at $43.47 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange, following a gain of 0.5% in the previous session.
Meanwhile, the U.S. reported more than 58,000 new coronvirus cases on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, but infections have topped 3 million in the country, with world-wide cases exceeding 12 million.
India reported 24,879 new cases, taking its total to 767,296, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing data from the country’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.