Oil prices plunged more than 5% on Friday and were on track for a fifth straight weekly loss as demand destruction caused by the coronavirus outweighed stimulus efforts by policymakers around the world.
Both contracts are down nearly two thirds this year and the coronavirus-related slump in economic activity and fuel demand has forced massive retrenchment in investment by oil and other energy companies.
Brent crude was down $2.03, or 7.7%, at $24.31 a barrel by 12:03 p.m. EDT (1603 GMT). U.S. crude was down $1.29, or 5.7%, at $21.31.
“We ran out of ammunition to support the market,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “The government used up all their bullets this week – next week the market is on its own.”
With 3 billion people in lockdown, global oil requirements could drop by 20%, International Energy Agency head Fatih Birol said as he called on major producers such as Saudi Arabia to help to stabilize oil markets.
The calls may not be enough to bring the market back into balance.
“We have our doubts about whether Saudi Arabia will allow itself to be persuaded so easily to return from the path of revenge that it only recently embarked upon,” said Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg, referring to the price war being waged between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The Group of 20 major economies on Thursday pledged to inject more than $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus and “do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic”.
Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives are determined to pass a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill by Saturday at the latest, hoping to provide quick help as deaths mount and the economy reels.
Mainland China reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus case in three days and 54 new imported cases as Beijing ordered airlines to implement sharp reductions in international flights, for fear travelers could reignite the outbreak.