RIYADH: Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said on Monday that the impact of a deadly coronavirus epidemic on oil demand was “extremely limited” but that the kingdom was closely following events.
Oil prices plunged on Monday, with Brent crude dropping below US$60 a barrel for the first time in almost three months amid fears over the economic effects of the epidemic, which has killed over 80 people in China.
But the outbreak’s impact “on the global demand for oil is extremely limited,” Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement cited by the SPA state news agency.
“A big part of the impact on global markets including the petroleum markets… is driven by psychological factors” and “pessimistic views” among dealers, he added.
Prince Abdulaziz recalled that the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) did not push down demand for oil.
He said Saudi Arabia was “closely watching” developments in oil markets, the global economy and that of China, a major buyer of Saudi crude.
“The kingdom and the OPEC+ alliance (of oil exporters) have the capability and the flexibility to respond to any changes… to support the stability of the oil markets, if needed,” he said.