Oil Ends Sharply Lower On Virus Jitters

Crude oil prices plunged sharply on Monday amid rising concerns about the outlook for energy demand due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus outside China.

According to reports, the number of new cases of coronavirus infection is rising in South Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Italy.

A report from Reuters, quoted Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser as saying the coronavirus impact will be “short term”. This probably pulled oil prices from the day’s lows.

West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for April ended down $1.95, or about 3.7%, at $51.43 a barrel, after falling to a low of $50.45 in the session.

Brent Crude futures declined $2.20, or about 3.8%, to $56.30 a barrel.

On Friday, WTI Crude oil futures for April ended down $0.50, or about 0.9%, at $53.38 a barrel.

South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level” for the first time in a decade, following a rapid spike in cases over the weekend. Reports say the total number of cases so far in South Korea has risen to 763.

Italy became Europe’s epicenter for coronavirus cases over the weekend. Iran has confirmed an uptick in infections.

Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo has reportedly decided to close 4 branches in the country as the government imposed strict quarantine restrictions in two northern “hotspot” regions close to Milan and Venice.

Iran has confirmed 43 cases and eight deaths, with most of the infections in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan imposed travel and immigration restrictions on the Islamic Republic.

The virus has now killed 2,592 people in China, which has reported 77,150 cases. The rapid spread of the deadly virus in several countries outside China left investors concerned about a hit to demand.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said it is worried about the growing number of cases without any clear link to China.

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