Oil Prices Ease, Focus Shifts to Next OPEC+ Move
Oil Prices Ease, Focus Shifts to Next OPEC+ Move

By Reuters

LONDON—Brent crude futures snapped a three-day rally on Friday in light trading before the Christmas holidays but the benchmark was still headed for a weekly gain, with the market focusing on next steps by OPEC+ and the impact of the Omicron variant.

Brent crude futures fell 75 cents, or 1 percent, to $76.10 a barrel by 1121 GMT, following a 2.1 percent gain in the previous session. The benchmark was still on track for a weekly gain of about 3.5 percent.

U.S. markets are closed on Friday for the Christmas holiday.

Oil prices have recovered this week as fears over the impact of the highly infectious Omicron variant on the global economy receded, with early data suggesting it causes a milder level of illness.

“The omicron-is-mild rally could well continue into January now, but reality will bite in February I believe, as the end of the Fed taper moves into sight,” OANDA analyst Jeffrey Halley said.

The U.S. Federal Reserve said last week it would end its pandemic-era bond purchases in March, paving the way for three interest rate increases that most Fed policymakers now believe will be needed next year.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, known as OPEC+, will meet on Jan. 4 to decide whether to go ahead with a 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) production increase in February.

Russia believes oil prices are unlikely to change significantly next year with demand recovering to pre-pandemic levels only by the end of 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday.

Some investors remained cautious amid surging infection cases.

Omicron advanced across the world on Thursday, with health experts warning the battle against the COVID-19 variant was far from over despite two drugmakers saying their vaccines protected against it and despite signs it carried a lower risk of hospitalization.

Coronavirus infections have soared wherever the variant has spread, triggering new restrictions in many countries, including Italy and Greece, and record numbers of new cases.

Global oil demand roared back in 2021 as the world began to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and overall world consumption potentially could hit a new record in 2022.

By Ahmad Ghaddar

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