US stocks head for lower open; oil flat after OPEC deal

A woman walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. Asian shares were mostly higher Tuesday after Wall Street rallied on the U.S. decision to give Chinese telecom giant Huawei another 90 days to buy equipment from American suppliers. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock futures were pointing toward a slightly lower open Monday, coming off their best week since 1974. Shares were mostly lower in Asia while markets in Europe were closed for the Easter holiday.

Crude prices lost earlier gains following an agreement by OPEC and other oil producing nations to cut output to reflect the collapse of demand due to the pandemic.

Trading was muted with European markets closed the day after Easter Sunday. U.S. shares were set to drift lower with the future for the Dow industrials slipping 0.4% to 23,534. The S&P 500 future fell 0.4% to 2,769.

Markets in Hong Kong and Sydney were also closed.

Just hours before markets reopened, OPEC, Russia and other oil producers finalized an unprecedented production cut of nearly 10 million barrels, or a tenth of global supply, seeking to boost crashing prices and end a price war.

U.S. benchmark crude initially jumped more than $1 but then lost ground, and were up just 3 cents Monday morning to $22.80 per barrel. It fell $2.33, or 9.3%, to $22.76 per barrel on Thursday, before the Good Friday holiday.

Brent, the international standard for pricing, fell 27 cents to $31.21 per barrel.

The oil producers agreed in a video conference late Sunday to cut 9.7 million barrels a day beginning May 1. Mexico had initially blocked the deal. Iran’s oil minister also says several Middle Eastern nations agreed to an additional cut of 2 million barrels a day.

Analysts said the cuts were not enough to make up for the void in demand due to business and travel shutdowns due to the coronavirus. But the deal at least helped resolve a price war that took U.S. crude to near $20 per barrel, pummeling U.S. oil and gas producers.

“With a demand shock estimated at between 15 to 30 million barrels of oil a day, depending on who you talk to, it is clear that the OPEC+ agreement contains more hope than reality,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.

“The entire construction is underwhelming, to say the least, and really relies on production collapsing in the U.S. and Canada to deliver the level of cuts required.”

In stock markets, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 2.3% to 19,043.40, while the Shanghai Composite index gave up 0.5% to 2,783.05. The Kospi in South Korea shed 1.9% to 1,825.76. India’s Sensex slipped 1.6% to 30,654.61.

Wall Street closed out its best week in 45 years on Thursday, thanks to unprecedented efforts by the Federal Reserve to support the economy through the coronavirus crisis.

Investors and analysts are looking ahead, trying to gauge when shutdowns in many countries might ease now that the number of deaths and new cases is falling or leveling off in some of the hardest-hit regions,

Comments by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., have raised hopes. He has said some parts of the U.S. might be able to reopen as early as next month, while warning that much remains uncertain.

China has begun, cautiously, to reopen activity in regions such as Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province that were shut down during the worst of its outbreak.

This week will bring a slew of first quarter corporate earnings that are likely give an inkling of how badly the pandemic is battering business, though much of the damage has come since the end of March. China is due to report its first quarter GDP data on Friday.