Oil edges lower as mass COVID testing begins in China

FILE PHOTO: A pump jack is seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – Oil prices edged lower in early Asian trade on Thursday as concerns about rising coronavirus cases in China, the world’s biggest oil importer, weighed on futures markets.

China’s capital Beijing reported 48 new symptomatic and 2 new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases for April 27, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday.

The city recorded 31 symptomatic cases a day earlier and three asymptomatic ones, as it began a mass testing program aimed at containing a new outbreak.

Brent crude futures fell 37 cents, or 0.4%, to $104.95 a barrel by 0006 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 27 cents, or 0.3%, to $101.75 a barrel.

Authorities in Beijing are continuing to crack down on COVID-19 outbreaks and trying to avert the city-wide lockdown that has shrouded Shanghai for a month.

China’s Hangzhou city of 12.2 million people, home to e-commerce giant Alibaba, will conduct mass COVID testing from April 28, state media reported on Wednesday.

Adding support to the market are concerns about tight worldwide energy supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions slapped on Moscow by the United States and its allies.

Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Wednesday it halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland.

British major Shell said it would no longer accept refined oil blended with Russian products, according to trading documents, while Exxon Mobil said it had declared force majeure on its Sakhalin-1 operations in the far eastern part of Russia.

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