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Oil prices have today increased due to short-covering and hopes for greater output cuts by oil-producing countries, despite continuing coronavirus fears.

Reuters reported that Brent crude rose $0.33 to $55.28 per barrel while US West Texas Intermediate crude gained $0.41 to $50.31 a barrel.

The news agency said investors covered short positions after three trading sessions of losses, while eyeing potential supply cuts.

Meanwhile, Libya’s National Oil Corporation confirmed a sharp decline in production due to an ongoing blockade of its ports and pipelines by internal factions.

As of 23 February 2020, the existing level of production is 122,430 barrels per day. The forced restriction of production has led to financial losses of over $2.1bn since 24 January 2020.

Libya is a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Next month, OPEC will meet in Vienna, Austria, to discuss difficulties with allies including Russia, in a grouping known as OPEC+.

Reuters quoted OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley as saying, “A weekly close below $55.00 a barrel on Brent crude will have the alarm bells ringing amongst the OPEC+ grouping.

“Some sort of price stabilization measures is inevitable should Brent crude prices continue falling.”

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud said he was confident that OPEC and its partner oil-producing nations would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency’s executive director Fatih Birol said the agency’s worldwide oil demand growth estimate is at its lowest level in the last ten years, adding it may need to further lower their forecasts because of the coronavirus outbreak.

US crude inventories are anticipated to increase for a fifth week running. The American Petroleum Institute said crude stockpiles grew 1.3 million barrels last week.