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China Lockdowns, Demand Fears Blamed For Oil Price Tumble

Asia’s factory activity slid last month as China’s strict zero-Covid approach and cost pressures hit businesses hard

China demand hits oil prices
An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo: Reuters


Fresh Covid lockdowns in China have been blamed for oil prices tumbling on Thursday.

Oil prices fell by 3% with new virus curbs in China adding to worries that high inflation and interest rate hikes are already denting fuel demand.

Brent crude futures fell $1.95, or 3.2%, to $92.64 a barrel by 1134 a.m. ET (1535 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slid $2.81, or 2.9%, to $86.84 a barrel.


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“Western-world oil demand, as well as China’s, is stagnant, while supplies are expanding incrementally, largely on the back of the US shale boom,” said Julius Baer analyst Norbert Rucker. 

Asia’s factory activity slumped in August as China’s zero-Covid curbs and cost pressures continued to hurt businesses, surveys showed on Thursday, darkening the outlook for the region’s fragile recovery.

Southern Chinese tech hub Shenzhen tightened Covid-19 curbs as cases continued to mount, with large events and indoor entertainment suspended for three days in the city’s most populous district, Baoan.

The main European stocks index fell to seven-week lows on Thursday on deepening worries about aggressive rate hikes and record-high inflation in the region. 

A possible revival of a 2015 Iran nuclear deal which would allow the OPEC member to boost its oil exports also weighed on prices. 

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he hoped a deal would be concluded in the coming days.


OPEC’s Output Struggles

Recent oil market volatility has followed concerns about inadequate supply in the months after Russia sent military forces into Ukraine and as OPEC struggles to increase output.

OPEC’s output hit 29.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in the most recent month, according to a Reuters survey, while US output rose to 11.82 million bpd in June. Both are at their highest levels since April 2020.

Still, the oil market will have a small surplus of just 400,000 bpd in 2022, much less than forecast earlier, according to OPEC and its partners – known as OPEC+ – due to underproduction of its members, data from the group showed.

The group expects an oil market deficit of 300,000 bpd in 2023. 

Meanwhile, US crude stocks fell by 3.3 million barrels, the US Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, while gasoline stocks were down 1.2 million barrels.

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven group of wealthy nations will discuss the U.S. Administration’s proposed price cap on Russian oil when they meet on Friday, the White House said.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


Read more:

China Was Top Buyer of Russian Oil in July, Data Shows

Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE Firms Hit With US Iran Oil Sanctions

China Oil Refining Slumps as Lockdowns Dampen Fuel Demand



Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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