Oil heads for 5% weekly gain as coronavirus fears ease

By Ovunc Kutlu

ANKARA (AA) – Crude oil prices were heading for a weekly 5% gain on Friday as worries amid the coronavirus outbreak eased to a certain extent after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned about drawing incorrect conclusions from reported numbers.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $57.16 per barrel at 1205 GMT on Friday, heading for a 5.5% weekly gain, after it opened Monday at $57.16 a barrel.

American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $52.12 a barrel at the same time on Friday. WTI was heading for a 5% weekly increase after starting the week at $49.61 per barrel.

Both benchmarks posted their first weekly gain since the week ending Jan. 3 when rising tensions in the Middle East between Iran and the U.S. threatened secure oil supply from the region.

Yet, the glut of oil supply still remains a negative push in the global oil market because of low demand from China and its neighbors in Asia.

Global oil demand is estimated to decrease by 435,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the first quarter of 2020, from the same period of last year, to mark the first quarterly contraction in more than 10 years, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) said in its monthly oil report on Thursday.

Oil demand in China, the world's second largest oil consumer, will also be reduced by lower economic activity, the IEA said.

On the demand side, all eyes will be on China in the following weeks, which reported 63,851 confirmed cases, and a death toll of 1,381 out of which 121 deaths were in the last 24 hours.

The WHO said Thursday most of these cases relate to "a period going back over days and weeks and are retrospectively reported as cases, sometimes back to the beginning of the outbreak itself."

"So we are not dealing, from what we understand, with a spike in cases of 14,000 on one day," WHO Health Emergencies Program Executive Director Michael Ryan said in a media briefing.

"… We need to be cautious when drawing conclusions from daily reported numbers," he warned.

On the supply side of the oil market, the focus will be on the meeting between OPEC and its allies in Vienna, Austria on March 5-6.

The group, dubbed as OPEC+, had agreed on Dec. 6 to curb oil production by an additional 500,000 bpd, bringing the total cut to 1.7 million bpd.

OPEC+ is expected to cut output by an additional 600,000 bpd in March to trim some of the oversupply in the market and support prices.

Their move, however, could "not be enough to fill the demand gap now exacerbated by the coronavirus," Rystad Energy’s Senior Vice President and Head of Oil Markets Bjornar Tonhaugen said in a statement on Thursday.

"The economic shut-down in China will cause the largest negative oil demand shock since 2008," he added.

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By Handan Kazanci

ANKARA (AA) - Anadolu Agency is here with a rundown of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and other news in Turkey and around the world.

- Coronavirus in Turkey

Turkey on Thursday confirmed 926 additional recoveries as the country began easing measures against the novel coronavirus, according to the country’s health minister.

The total number of recoveries from the disease hit 131,778 as 926 more patients were discharged from hospitals over the past day, Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter, citing Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,630 as Turkey reported 21 new fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Turkey conducted over 54,000 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to more than 2.2 million, said Koca.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to resume international flights to 40 countries gradually as of June 10, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said Thursday.

International flights from Turkey will carry passengers first to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar and Greece, Karaismailoglu said in a statement.

Turkey suspended all international flights on March 28 amid COVID-19-related travel restrictions worldwide.

- Global coronavirus developments

A low death toll was once again recorded Thursday as France recovers from the coronavirus pandemic which plagued the country over the last three months, according to the latest statistics reported by the Health Ministry.

The country registered a total of 46 deaths in hospitals Thursday, a drop of 39 cases over those reported Wednesday.

Italy on Thursday reported 88 more fatalities from the pandemic, bringing the death toll to 33,689 as authorities unveiled new guidelines to prevent crowded summer spots like beach resorts from becoming new virus hotbeds.

The slowing trend in the number of deaths registered in May continued in early June, confirming that the peak of the crisis has been passed.

Face masks on English public transport will be mandatory from June 15, the British government announced Thursday, as a further 176 people died from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

British authorities announced that the UK-wide death toll from COVID-19 is now 39,904.

As Spain prepares for its state of emergency over COVID-19 to last until June 21, the Health Ministry reported Thursday that 195 more people were infected with the coronavirus and five more had died.

The number of infections diagnosed Wednesday was down slightly from the 219 people who tested positive Tuesday but up from Monday and Sunday. In total, 240,660 infections have been confirmed in the country.

Health officials in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza announced Thursday the arrival of medical supplies sent by Turkey to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra confirmed that two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines had been delivered for detecting the virus.

- George Floyd Memorial service

Hundreds of mourners on Thursday attended the first of several memorials for George Floyd – an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody on May 25.

The service at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota was attended by Floyd's family and Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the family, as well as celebrity guests.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday urged demonstrators joining protests over the death of George Floyd to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Cuomo said around 30,000 people have taken part in the statewide protests demanding justice for the killing of the unarmed black man in police custody.

Of them, 20,000 were involved in rallies in New York City.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged citizens not to overlook the racism problem in Germany while intensely discussing racism and police brutality in the US after the death of George Floyd.

"This murder of George Floyd is very, very terrible. Racism is something terrible,” Merkel said Thursday evening in an exclusive interview with public broadcaster ZDF.

“Racism has always been present, but sadly we also have this [problem]. We should first sweep in front of our own door,” she stressed.

- Other developments

Turkey and Libya plan to advance cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, including exploration and drilling activities, to further benefit from natural resources, Turkey’s president said in a meeting with Libya’s prime minister Thursday.

The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj took place at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Libya have reached a consensus on expanding their cooperation areas on the territory of Libya.