Markets

Oil drops as inventories and COVID vaccine halt threaten demand

  • Germany, France, Italy suspend use of AstraZeneca shot.
  • Move threatens EU's already slow vaccination campaign.
  • US inventories seen rising in data releases this week.
  • US refineries take time to recover from 'big freeze'.
Published March 16, 2021

LONDON: Oil prices fell for a third day on Tuesday, as a recovery in demand was threatened by rising US inventories and moves by Germany, France and some other European states to suspend the use of a major coronavirus vaccine.

Brent was down $1.11 cents, or 1.6%, at $67.77 a barrel by 1325 GMT. US crude fell $1.17, or 1.7%, at $64.22.

Germany, France and Italy said they would suspend the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after reports about possible serious side effects, although the World Health Organization said there was no established link to the vaccine.

The moves deepen concerns about the slow pace of vaccinations in the European Union, threatening an economic recovery and fuel demand.

The pandemic eviscerated demand for oil. Prices have recovered to levels seen before the global health crisis, but gains have been capped as vaccine rollouts have proceeded slowly in many countries.

In the United States, crude inventories are also rising as refineries have taken time to recover fully from a "big freeze" that halted their operations in Texas and elsewhere.

"Short-term direction will be set by the weekly US inventory reports," PVM analysts said in a note, adding that the dollar's strength against other currencies also weighed on the oil price.

Analysts expect another week of inventory gains when the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, reports on crude stockpiles on Tuesday, followed by official numbers from the Department of Energy on Wednesday.

Inventories rose by 12.8 million barrels in the week to March 5, against forecasts for a rise of less than 1 million barrels.

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