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Crude oil futures recover from overnight plunge, but bearish drivers remain

Singapore — 0242 GMT: Crude oil futures were higher in mid morning trade in Asia Tuesday, rebounding from the sharp overnight fall amid short covering, but bearish market drivers remained, analysts said.

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At 10:42 am Singapore time (0242 GMT), April ICE Brent crude futures gained 40 cents/b (0.71%) from Monday's settle at $56.70/b, while the NYMEX April light sweet crude contract rose 31 cents/b (0.60%) at $51.74/b.

"Energy markets continue to be rocked by the spread of the coronavirus outside of China... the market may find little reason to rally other than from technical short covering," OCBC analysts said Tuesday.

Oil futures settled sharply lower Monday amid a broad market selloff, sparked by contagion fears amid the persistent spread of COVID-19 beyond China.

For now, the fall in crude oil was also tempered by reports that Chinese oil refineries are resuming production, following restrictions on heavy industry to curb the outbreak, ANZ analysts said Tuesday.

Nonetheless, bearish drivers remained in the market amid prospects of weaker economic growth and fears of growing contagion beyond China.

"Though several Chinese provinces have started to ease restrictions as local governments urge businesses to resume operations, this did little help to soothe risk sentiment as the outbreak has spread to a wider geographical region, including Europe and Middle East," Mizuho Bank analysts said Tuesday.

The World Health Organization warned Monday that while the outbreak did not yet deserve to be called a pandemic, the virus has "pandemic potential."

Recovery in oil prices was also capped by the disagreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia on further oil production cuts.

OPEC+ is scheduled to meet in Vienna on March 5-6 to discuss the future of their agreement on production cuts, which expire in April.