Oil Steady but Omicron Risks Weigh

By Reuters
Reuters
Reuters
December 13, 2021 Updated: December 13, 2021

LONDON—Oil was steady on Monday, but new concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant and doubts around the effectiveness of vaccines against it were weighing on prices.

Brent was up 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $75.21 a barrel by 0947 GMT, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) gained 9 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $71.76 a barrel.

Both benchmarks posted gains of about 8 percent last week, their first weekly gain in seven.

“The major oil contracts registered decent weekly gains, but it is noticeable that current prices are still way below the pre-Omicron levels,” said Tamas Varga, oil analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.

The Omicron coronavirus variant, reported in more than 60 countries, poses a “very high” global risk, with some evidence that it evades vaccine protection, the World Health Organization says.

Oxford University also said vaccines showed to induce lower levels of protection against Omicron.

Producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, next meet on Jan. 4 having agreed earlier this month to stick to their existing policy of monthly oil output increases.

Iraq’s oil minister said on Sunday he expected OPEC at its next meeting to maintain its current policy of gradual monthly increases in supply by 400,000 bpd.

The market reacted little to an announcement last Friday by the U.S. Department of Energy that it will sell 18 million barrels of crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) on Dec. 17, as part of a previous plan to try to reduce gasoline prices.

“WTI will probably test its recent high of $73.34 and then try to rise towards $78, the level before the Omicron fears led to a sharp sell-off late last month,” said Toshitaka Tazawa, an analyst at Fujitomi Securities Co. Ltd.

Traders will also focus this week on monetary policy decisions expected to be taken by the European Central Bank (ECB), the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the Bank of Japan that could potentially include an early end to stimulus packages.

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

Reuters