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CERAWeek energy conference in Houston scrapped over coronavirus worries

Coronavirus concerns prompted organizers on Sunday to cancel one of the world’s most prestigious gatherings of oil ministers and top executives from the energy and financial industries scheduled for this month in Houston.The fast-spreading virus has infected around 85,000 and killed almost 3,000 people around the world. About 70 cases have been diagnosed in the United States, which recorded its first fatality from the virus over the weekend.The CERAWeek energy conference is the latest event to be scrapped due to the disease, which triggered the biggest weekly stock market rout since 2008 last week. Stock markets continue to fall on Monday, but oil prices edged higher in trading in Asia on expectations OPEC will cut output. Oil fell around 15% last week.In its decision to cancel CERAWeek, 

IHS Markit separately canceled two other international conferences scheduled this month in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Long Beach, California.CERAWeek, first held in 1981, has in the past drawn thousands of attendees to Houston and its energy panels and technology forums. Some 5,500 delegates from 85 countries took part last year at the week-long event, according to the event’s website.The loss of this year’s event will remove one chance for oil and gas executives “to discuss how to deal with declining demand caused by the virus epidemic” as it bears down on the industry, said Francisco Monad, a fellow in Latin American energy policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.The oil and gas industry is already battling a sharp slowdown because of the virus. The International Energy Agency last month said in an updated outlook that it was expecting global oil demand growth this year to fall to its lowest level in a decade.