Exxon Mobil slid 4% after the country’s largest oil producer reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit on squeezed margins for its chemical and retail fuel operations. The results fell far short of Wall Street forecasts as the company faces increasing pressure from sliding oil prices as a spreading virus outbreak threatens demand. Oil prices have fluctuated widely throughout 2019 as tensions in the
Middle East and sanctions in Venezuela disrupted global oil supply, while fears of a global economic slowdown put a damper on demand. So far in 2020, crude oil prices are down more than 15%. The spread of the virus from China to other regions could drive down energy demand as people and corporations reduce travel, particularly to China. While the situation remains in flux, analysts say global oil demand could be weaker than previous estimates, at least in the short term.