The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may bring forward their scheduled meeting in March due to worries over the spread of coronavirus, according to Algerian Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab on Wednesday.
In response to the epidemic, Arkab was reported to have said by his country's state news agency APS that the OPEC meeting, scheduled for the beginning of March, is likely to be brought forward to February to ensure market balance.
The 14-member OPEC and 10 non-OPEC oil producing countries, dubbed as OPEC+, were scheduled to meet on March 5-6 in Vienna to discuss the global oil market and access the demand and supply dynamics.
The death toll in China from the coronavirus outbreak has escalated to 170, with 38 people having lost their lives in the last 24 hours.
With the emergence of cases in the U.S. and Europe, oil demand in the world's most oil consuming countries is under threat, pushing crude prices down to their lowest level since October.
To trim the glut of supply in the market, OPEC+ agreed on Dec. 6 to curb their production by an additional 0.5 million barrels per day (bpd) starting from Jan. 1. That added to their existing output cut of 1.2 million bpd that had been decided in December 2018.
OPEC+ is due to extend their current production cut level for at least another three months until the end of June.
While the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna is preparing a report on the impact of the coronavirus, one member country said earlier this week that the epidemic should not be overstated.
"It is important that we do not exaggerate projections related to future decreases in oil demand due to events in China," the United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said on Monday.
"The market does not overreact based on psychological factors, driven by some traders in the market," he stated.
British multinational investment bank and financial services company Barclays said Tuesday that crude oil prices could fall by $2 per barrel on average in 2020 due to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
JPMorgan warned that if the virus develops into a SARS-style epidemic, which hit China from 2002 to 2003, oil prices could fall by as much as $5 per barrel.
Since China reported on Jan. 20 a sharp rise in coronavirus cases with 140 new patients, Brent crude fell to as low as $57.26 per barrel on Thursday marking a 12% decline.
By Ovunc Kutlu