Crude oil-related ETFs may continue to suffer as global oil demand is expected to decline for the first three months of the year, marking the first quarterly drop in over a decade.
Year-to-date, the United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO), which tracks West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, decreased 15.6% and the United States Brent Oil Fund (NYSEArca: BNO), which tracks Brent crude oil futures, plunged 13.8% as WTI crude oil futures dropped to $551.3 per barrel and Brent crude fell to $56.2 per barrel.
The depressed prices could linger as the International Energy Agency blamed a global drop in quarterly oil demand for the first time in over a decade to a likely economic slowdown in China related to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Specifically, the IEA cut its oil demand growth forecast for 2020 by 365,000 barrels a day, or 30% below its previous forecast made in January. The IEA also warned of a pullback in oil demand this quarter of 435,000 barrels a day, compared with a year ago, which would mark the first quarterly drop in demand since the height of the financial crisis.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has already lowered its estimates by 230,000 barrels a day in response to the lowered economic activity.
“The consequences of [the virus]for global oil demand will be significant,” IEA said in its report, adding that “there is already a major slowdown in oil consumption and the wider economy in China.”
China made up over three-quarters of global oil demand growth in 2019, and the emerging economy’s oil demand has more than doubled since the outbreak of the SARS virus in 2003. “There is little doubt that the virus will have a larger impact on the economy and oil demand than did SARS,” the IEA added.