Oil jumps by over 2% as China eases COVID curbs

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Oil prices jumped more than 2% on Friday after health authorities in China, the top global crude importer, eased some of the country’s heavy COVID curbs.

Brent crude futures rose US$2.39, or 2.6%, to US$96.06 a barrel by 0745 GMT, extending a 1.1% rise in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained US$2.24, or 2.6%, to US$88.71 a barrel, after climbing 0.8% in the previous session.

The easing curbs include shortening quarantine times for close contacts of cases and inbound travellers by two days, as well as eliminating a penalty on airlines for bringing in infected passengers.

“Oil traders are applauding the news. The key for oil markets is to continue watching developments closely for this and further marginal positive changes in the government’s zero-COVID stance,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

The move towards liberalising the COVID-zero policy will provide a springboard for oil markets, given that lockdowns hurt mobility and oil prices more than economic activity, he said.

Prices also picked up on Friday after milder-than-expected U.S. inflation data reinforced hopes that the Federal Reserve would slow down rate increases, boosting chances of a soft landing for the world’s biggest economy.

A weaker U.S. dollar also supported oil prices as it makes the commodity cheaper for buyers holding other currencies.

Still, the benchmark oil contracts were headed for weekly declines of more than 1% due to rising U.S. oil inventories, and lingering fears over capped fuel demand in China amid an uptick in daily COVID cases.

China’s COVID-19 case load soared to its highest since the lockdown in Shanghai earlier this year. Both Beijing and Zhengzhou reported record daily cases.

Besides work-from-home orders reducing mobility and fuel demand, travel across China remained subdued as people wanted to avoid the risk of being caught up in quarantine, ANZ Research analysts said in a note.

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