Commodities

Oil prices rebound on fears Suez Canal blockage may last weeks

Reuters TOKYO | Updated on March 26, 2021

Oil prices bounced back on Friday from a plunge a day earlier on concerns that a large container ship that ran aground in the Suez Canal may block the vital shipping lane for weeks, squeezing supply.

Prices, however, were still headed for a third consecutive weekly loss.

Brent crude was higher by 43 cents, or 0.7 per cent, at $62.38 a barrel by 0028 GMT, after dropping 3.8 per cent on Thursday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 49 cents, or 0.8 per cent, at $59.05 a barrel, having tumbled 4.3 per cent a day earlier.

Both benchmarks were on track for a weekly loss of more than 3 per cent, following a more than 6 per cent decline last week.

The trapped container ship is blocking traffic in the Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest shipping channels for oil and refined fuels, grain and other trade between Asia and Europe.

Officials stopped all ships entering the canal on Thursday, and a salvage company said the vessel may take weeks to free.

"Expectations that the blockage of the Suez Canal may last for weeks raised fears of supply tightness in oil markets," said Nissan Securities researcher Yasushi Osada.

"But lingering worries that a fresh wave of lockdowns in Europe and elsewhere may slow a recovery of global fuel demand are expected to limit price gains," he said.

Countries in Europe are renewing restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, which will likely reduce fuel demand from the region. Germany, Europe's largest economy, has seen its biggest increase in coronavirus cases since January.

In parts of western India, authorities ordered people indoors as new infections hit the highest level in five months.

The oil market was also under pressure as producers had difficulty selling to Asia, especially China. Asian buyers instead took cheaper oil from storage while refinery maintenance has reduced demand, industry sources said.

Published on March 26, 2021

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