Crude prices edged up on Wednesday as investors covered short positions after three sessions of losses, even as fears deepened that the rapid spread of the coronavirus will lead to a global pandemic.
Brent crude rose 42 cents, or 0.8%, to $55.37 a barrel by 0154 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 43 cents, or 0.9%, to $50.33 a barrel. Still, both benchmarks are down nearly 7% since last Thursday's close.
Fears of a pandemic escalated after the coronavirus spread to more countries, while Iran's virus death toll rose to 16, the highest outside China, and infections worsened in South Korea and Italy.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should prepare for possible community spread of the virus.