International oil prices fell to $99.84 from $100 per barrel on Tuesday, easing margin pressure on fuel retailers who have been holding petrol and diesel prices despite a spike in the cost of raw material. Brent crude oil prices, which soared past $100 per barrel on February 28 and touched $ 139 per barrel on March 7, fell over 7 per cent on Tuesday. The market was rattled by a increase of virus cases in China, which may impact demand in the world’s biggest crude importer, and signs of progress in cease-fire talks between Ukraine and Russia. International oil prices, which increased since Russia invaded Ukraine, have swung about $40 per barrel in little more than a week.
Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) haven’t changed petrol and diesel prices for a record 131 days. The companies were expected to end the election-related freeze on fuel prices once polling in five states including Uttar Pradesh ended last week but they continued to keep rates on hold to not give the opposition any issue to corner the government in the second half of the budget session of Parliament that started on Monday. “Oil marketing companies will take their decisions (on fuel prices). They will proceed once they can no longer bear it. If they don’t have the margin or cushion, they will take the appropriate step,” Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said as he denied suggestions that the firms were holding the prices on government instructions so as not to spoil the ruling BJP’s electoral prospects in five states that went to polls.