Oil mixed as shrinking China economy overshadows Trump plan to ease U.S. coronavirus lockdown

SINGAPORE/TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices were mixed on Friday after the weakest Chinese economic data in decades showed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, offsetting some earlier gains on optimism for President Donald Trump’s early plans to revive the U.S. economy.

Brent was up by 55 cents, or 2%, at $28.37 a barrel by 0406 GMT, while U.S. crude CLc1 for May delivery, which expires on April 21, was down 13 cents, or 0.7%, at $19.74 a barrel. The more active June contract was up $1, or 4%, at $26.53.

China’s economy shrank for the first time since at least 1992 in the first quarter, as the coronavirus outbreak paralysed production and spending and punched a huge hole in global demand for crude and refined products.

That data was released after Trump laid out a three-stage process for ending lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus that has now killed more than 32,000 Americans and nearly 140,000 worldwide.

“Oil markets found baseline support from President Trump’s U.S. reopening plan,” said Stephen Innes, market strategist at AxiTrader. Still, downside risk remains the dominant factor, he said.

Both oil benchmarks are heading for a second consecutive week of losses, with U.S. oil around 18-year lows: Analysts have slashed forecasts for prices and demand due to the spread of the coronavirus and oversupply concerns.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) lowered its forecast for 2020 global oil demand and warned it may not be the last revision downward. OPEC now sees a contraction of global demand of 6.9 million barrels per day (bpd), compared with a small increase predicted last month, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Downward risks remain significant, suggesting the possibility of further adjustments, especially in the second quarter,” OPEC said of the demand forecast.

OPEC and other producers including Russia, in a grouping known as OPEC+, over the weekend agreed on production cuts of nearly 10 million bpd, after an earlier cooperation agreement collapsed.

ConocoPhillips said on Thursday it will reduce planned North American output by 225,000 bpd, the largest cut so far by a major shale oil producer to deal with the unprecedented drop in demand.

“This highlights that the market will see meaningful cuts from outside the OPEC+ group without the need for mandated cuts,” said ING bank in a note on Friday. “Instead, market forces will do the job, with the low price environment forcing producers to cut back.”

Still, even allowing for another 10 million bpd of cuts supposed to come from producers like the United States and Norway due to weak prices, there is still a mismatch between supply and demand of around 10 million bpd, most analysts say.

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