Oil inches up despite coronavirus-related demand concerns

Brent crude was down 17 cents, or 0.3%, at $66.60 a barrel by 0643 GMT

  
A pump jack operates at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose

A pump jack operates at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose

REUTERS/Nick Oxford

LONDON -Oil prices steadied on Monday as concerns about demand from rising coronavirus infections in India and other countries were tempered by a weaker U.S. dollar.

Brent crude was up 32 cents, or 0.5%, at $67.09 a barrel by 1353 GMT, after rising 6% last week. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) U.S. oil was up 41 cents, or 0.7%, at $63.54 a barrel, having gained 6.4% last week.

India reported a record rise in coronavirus infections on Monday which lifted overall cases to just over 15 million, making the country the second-worst affected after the United States, which has reported more than 31 million infections.

Deaths from COVID-19 in India also rose by a record 1,619 to nearly 180,000. 

The capital region of Delhi ordered a six-day lockdown on Monday, joining around 13 other states across the country that have decided to impose restrictions, curfews or lockdowns in their cities.

"This new wave of measures, while so far likely to be less stringent than what we saw in March 2020, when gasoline and gasoil/diesel demand in the country fell by close to 60%, is nevertheless set to weigh on transportation fuel consumption," consultancy JBC said.

Hong Kong will suspend flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines from April 20 due to imported coronavirus infections, authorities said in a statement on Sunday.

A weaker dollar kept a floor under oil prices. The U.S. currency traded at a six-week low versus major peers on Monday, with Treasury yields hovering near the weakest in five weeks. 

With oil priced in dollars, a weaker greenback could spur demand from holders of other currencies, boosting prices.

JP Morgan now expects Brent prices to break the $70 mark by May, compared with September in their previous forecast, the bank said in a recent note. It still expects them to finish the year at a similar level of about $74.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Jan Harvey, KIrsten Donovan) ((Ahmad.Ghaddar@thomsonreuters.com; +442075424435; Reuters Messaging: ahmad.ghaddar.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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