Oil slides to near 2-week lows as Shanghai lockdowns stoke demand worries

Oil prices slumped to near two-week lows on Monday, extending losses from last week, as concerns grew that prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai and potential US rate hikes would hurt global economic growth and fuel demand.

Brent crude futures were down $3.15, or 3.0%, at $103.50 a barrel by 0326 GMT.

They touched $103.41 earlier in the session, the lowest since April 12. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell $3.01, or 3.0%, to $99.06 a barrel, having skidded earlier to $98.93, the lowest since April 12. The benchmarks lost nearly 5% last week on demand concerns.

“Oil is rerating lower due to the China consumption hit while the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to slow down the US economy,” SPI Asset Management Managing Director Stephen Innes said in a note. “Those are two gusty headwinds suggesting some oil bulls will give way to recession fears and demand devastation.”

Shanghai authorities battling an outbreak of COVID-19 have erected fences outside residential buildings, sparking a fresh public outcry over a lockdown that has forced much of the city’s 25 million people indoors.

US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has indicated that a half-point interest rate increase “will be on the table” when the Fed meets in May to approve the next, in what are expected to be a series, of hikes this year.

On the supply side, US energy firms added oil and natural gas rigs for a fifth straight week amid high prices and prodding by the government.

In Europe, the Russia-Kazakh Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) was resuming full exports from April 22 after almost 30 days of disruptions following repairs on one of its key loading facilities, three sources told Reuters on Friday.

Some analysts said the worsening crisis in Ukraine could raise pressure on the EU to sanction Russian oil and prices could move higher later this year.

“Oil prices are not expected to fall below $90 a barrel due to the prospect of a potential ban by the EU on Russian oil amid a deepening Ukraine crisis,” said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Nissan Securities.

The EU is preparing “smart sanctions” against Russian oil imports, The Times reported on Monday, citing the European Commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis.

Russia is Europe’s top gas supplier and the world’s second-biggest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. Emmanuel Macron’s win in the French presidential election could also support oil prices, some analysts felt.

“I would expect London to buy oil as he has been a highly vocal supporter of the European Union oil embargo,” said SPI Asset’s Innes.