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Crude Oil Futures Settle Sharply Lower Again

Crude oil prices plunged sharply on Thursday, extending losses to a fifth session, amid concerns about the outlook for energy demand.

The coronavirus has reportedly spread to over 50 countries. The spread of the virus to large economies including South Korea, Japan and Italy has raised concerns that growth in fuel demand will be limited.

Officials are scrambling to contain the outbreak in Italy, which has reported 12 deaths and 400 confirmed cases in Europe’s worst outbreak of the virus.

More than 18 cases of the virus have been confirmed in both Germany and France, while two French patients have died from the disease.

Higher crude stockpiles in the U.S. weighed as well on oil prices.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures for April ended down $1.64, or about 3.4%, at $47.09 a barrel, the lowest finish since January 2019.

On Wednesday, WTI crude oil futures ended down $1.17, or 2.3%, at $48.73 a barrel. So far, WTI oil futures have shed about 12% in the week.

Brent crude futures tumbled 2.34% to $52.18 a barrel. The contract dropped to a low of $50.97 a barrel at one stage.

Data released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday showed that oil inventories climbed by 452,000 barrels in the week ended February 21, compared with expectations for an increase of 2 million barrels.

OPEC and allies are scheduled to meet in Vienna on March 5-6, to consider deepening production cuts to support prices.

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