Brent rises after US shut up shop ahead of Hurricane Laura

Singapore — Brent crude oil prices rose on Wednesday, lifted by US producers shutting most of their offshore output in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Laura and optimism over China-US trade talks.

But gains were capped amid renewed concern over the coronavirus pandemic, which has squeezed fuel demand, after reports from Europe and Asia of patients being reinfected with Covid-19, raising concerns about future immunity.

Brent crude oil futures added 12c, or 0.3%, to $45.98 a barrel by 3.35am GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude remained steady at $43.35 a barrel. Both benchmarks settled at a five-month high on Tuesday.

“The hurricane impact is short-term bullish, but that could be short-lived if the damage to the Texas and Louisiana coasts cripples demand for an extended time,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda in New York.

The US energy industry on Tuesday was preparing for a major hurricane strike. Producers evacuated 310 offshore facilities and shut 1.56-million barrels a day of crude output, 84% of Gulf of Mexico’s offshore production — close to the 90% outage that Hurricane Katrina brought 15 years ago.

“Markets are currently pricing in a possible near-term catastrophic [petrol] shortage,” said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp.

Top US and Chinese officials reaffirmed their commitment to a phase 1 trade deal, which has seen China lagging on its obligations to buy American goods, potentially boosting flows between the world’s two largest oil consumers.

Further price support came from data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showing US crude oil stockpiles fell more than expected last week. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical arm of the department of energy, will release its own official inventory data later on Wednesday.

Still, downward pressure came from concern about demand after data showing US consumer confidence has tumbled to its lowest in more than six years due to concern about coronavirus-induced job losses.