Crude oil prices on Friday were heading for their biggest monthly decline since May 2019 with low global oil demand concerns due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Brent crude was trading at $57.45 per barrel at 1205 GMT on Friday, leaning towards a 13.5% monthly loss after it opened at the start of January with $66.41 a barrel, according to official figures.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate was at $52.39 a barrel at the same time, heading for a 14.8% decline after it started this month at $61.52 per barrel.
In May 2019, crude oil prices lost more than 15% as the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, increased the rate of tariffs on one another having failed to make an agreement at their 11th round of trade talks.
The month of January started on a higher note as tension between the U.S. and Iran threatened secure crude supply from the Middle East, which is home to almost half of the world's proved oil reserves and accounts for one-third of global oil production.
Oil prices, however, began their steep decline on Jan. 20 when China reported a sharp rise in the coronavirus cases with 140 new patients. Since that date, Brent crude lost 13% and WTI declined 11.4%.
The spread of the virus could have a wider, negative impact on economic growth in China and Asia, and undermine overall oil demand around the world.
While British banking and financial services company Barclays said Tuesday that oil prices could fall by $2 per barrel on average in 2020 due to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak, American investment firm JPMorgan warned last week if the virus develops into a SARS-style epidemic that hit China from 2002 to 2003, oil prices could fall by as much as $5 per barrel.
The plummet in prices is not helping OPEC producers who agreed last month in Vienna to lower their oil production by an additional 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) on top of the previous deal to curb output by 1.2 million bpd to raise prices until the end of March 2020.
OPEC may bring forward its meeting to February, originally scheduled for March, due to worries over the spread of the coronavirus, according to Algerian Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab on Wednesday.
By Ovunc Kutlu