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Crude oil futures slip on build in US gasoline stocks, COVID-19 resurgence

Singapore — 0300 GMT: Crude oil futures fell in mid-morning trade in Asia April 8 as a build in US gasoline stocks and a resurgence of COVID-19 in several countries raised concerns over demand.

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At 11 am Singapore time (0300 GMT), the ICE Brent June contract was down 33 cents/b (0.52%) from the April 7 settle at $62.83/b, while the May NYMEX light sweet crude contract fell 37 cents/b (0.62%) to $59.40/b.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the US' gasoline stocks increased by 4 million barrels in the week ended April 2, which exceeded analysts' expectations and rekindled bearish sentiment in the market.

"Gasoline inventories jumped 4 million barrels igniting fears that rising COVID-19 cases could further hinder the demand outlook. The expectations were for a draw in gasoline inventories given the assumption of improving economic conditions," Avtar Sandu, senior manager for commodities at Phillip Futures said in an April 8 note.

However, analysts noted that the build was driven by a surge in imports, which comes ahead of the US' summer driving season, when gasoline demand typically surges.

Additionally, concerns over COVID-19 resurgences in major economies continued to cast a shadow on economic recovery optimism.

"The third and fourth wave virus outbreaks in Europe and parts of Asia, notably India, have elevated lockdown concerns that continue to weigh in the market top side ambitions hitting the prompt demand outlooks," Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi said in an April 8 note.

These concerns have heightened as a rare type of blood clot was linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine by drug regulators in Europe and the UK overnight, prompting health authorities in the UK to advise those under 30 be be offered an alternative vaccine if possible.

Noting the emergence of the side effect to the vaccine, analysts at ANZ Research said in an April 8 note: "A delay in inoculation efforts could undo some of the optimism that markets have developed for demand over the coming northern hemisphere summer."

Nevertheless, analysts noted that vaccination numbers continue to increase globally and economic performance indicators are ticking higher, providing some support to market sentiment.

"The final March PMI for the Euro area impressed, indicating that the economy is not only coping well with the extended lockdown, but may have returned to growth at the end of Q1," ANZ analysts said in their note.

However, volatility for crude oil may be high as the long-term economic recovery outlook is weighed by setbacks in vaccination efforts and resurgences of COVID-19.

"In the short-term oil market may be volatile with frequent pull-back as crude prices are beginning to struggle as demand in Europe faces headwinds," Phillip's Sandhu said in his note.