Oil drops slightly as mass COVID testing begins in China

A pump jack is seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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April 28 (Reuters) – Oil prices edged lower on Thursday at the start of Asian trading as concerns over rising coronavirus cases in China, the world’s biggest oil importer, weighed on futures markets.

China’s capital Beijing reported 48 new symptomatic and 2 new asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 for April 27, state broadcaster CCTV reported Thursday.

The city recorded 31 symptomatic cases a day earlier and three asymptomatic cases as it began a mass testing program aimed at containing a new outbreak.

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Brent crude futures fell 37 cents, or 0.4%, to $104.95 a barrel at 0006 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 27 cents, or 0.3%, to $101.75 a barrel.

Authorities in Beijing are continuing to suppress COVID-19 outbreaks and are trying to avoid the citywide lockdown that has enveloped Shanghai for a month.

The Chinese city of Hangzhou of 12.2 million, home to e-commerce giant Alibaba, will conduct mass COVID testing from April 28, state media reported on Wednesday.

Concerns about tight global energy supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions imposed on Moscow by the United States and its allies are bolstering market support.

Russian energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said on Wednesday it had cut gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland. Read more

Britain’s Shell said it would no longer accept refined oil mixed with Russian products, according to business documents, while Exxon Mobil said it had declared force majeure for its Sakhalin-1 operations in the extreme east of Russia.

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Reporting by Laura Sanicola; Editing by Stephen Coates

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