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Oil settles Friday at a 7-week low as rising Europe COVID cases may hurt on demand

By Myra P. Saefong and Barbara Kollmeyer / Market Watch

Petroleumworld 11 19 2021

Crude-oil prices settled at their lowest in about seven weeks on Friday, down a fourth straight week to post the longest streak of declines in almost 20 months.

Prices took a hit in response to a fresh lockdown in Austria, and rising COVID cases in Europe, which could eventually chip away at demand for the commodity should more countries impose COVID-19 restrictions.

“Sentiment has turned bearish in Europe as Austria reimposing lockdowns has reminded investors that COVID waves can still disrupt the world economy,” said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management, in a daily note.

On Friday, West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery CLZ21 CL.1, +0.01% slumped 3.7%, or $2.91, to settle at $76.10 a barrel on the contract’s New York Mercantile Exchange expiration day. January WTI crude CLF22, -0.34%, which is now the front month, settled at $75.94, down $2.47, or nearly 3.2%.

“Sentiment has turned bearish in Europe as Austria reimposing lockdowns has reminded investors that COVID waves can still disrupt the world economy.”

— Colin Cieszynski, SIA Wealth Management

January Brent crude BRN00, -0.29% BRNF22, -0.29% tumbled 2.9%, or $2.35, to settle at $78.89 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

The U.S. crude benchmark settled at its lowest since Oct. 1, down 5.8% for the week, based on the front months, while Brent crude marked its lowest finish since Sept. 30, losing 4% from the week-ago settlement, according to Dow Jones Market. Both benchmarks were down a fourth week in a row, the longest losing streak since the period ended March 27, 2020.

“There have certainly been multiple bearish fundamental developments for the energy market over the last two weeks, including the discussion of coordinated oil reserve releases among major oil consumers around the globe and the uptick in COVID fears centered in Europe,” said Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research.

Still, it may be too early to declare a top in the oil market as the latest pullback has “so far resembled a healthy, corrective pullback in an otherwise still upward trending oil market,” he told MarketWatch.

Baker Hughes reports a 4th weekly rise in a row for U.S. oil-drilling rigs , by Myra P. Saefong

Baker Hughes BKR, -5.77% on Friday reported that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil rose by seven to 461 this week. That followed increases in each of the previous three weeks, including a climb of four oil rigs last week, Baker Hughes data show. The total active U.S. rig count, which includes those drilling for natural gas, also climbed by seven to stand at 563, according to Baker Hughes. Oil prices continued to trade sharply lower on concerns that Europe's rise in COVID cases will hurt energy demand. December West Texas Intermediate crude clz21 was down $2.77, or 3.5%, at $76.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. -  Nov. 19, 2021 at 1:07 p.m. ET

Austria’s government announced Friday that the nation will enter a 10-day lockdown that could stretch to 20 days, in a bid to control spiraling COVID cases. The country had earlier this week become the first European country to restrict movement for unvaccinated people. Austria’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in the region at 65%.

Austria and Germany have seen record COVID cases this week, and investors were also rattled after German Health Minister Jens Spahn reportedly spoke of a grave situation amid a new wave of infections, and he could not rule out lockdowns at a news conference Friday. The government also announced restrictions for unvaccinated people.

“Oil has been declining over the last week as demand forecasts have been pared back, OPEC and the IEA have warned of oversupply in the coming months and the U.S. has attempted to coordinate an SPR release with China and others,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA, in a note to clients.

“The market still remains fundamentally in a good position but lockdowns are now an obvious risk to this if other countries follow Austria’s lead,” Erlam said, adding that oil prices look more likely than a day ago to slide toward the mid-$70s region, especially if Germany announces similar measures.

Among petroleum products Friday, December gasoline RBZ21, -0.23% fell 3.6% to $2.212 a gallon and December heating oil HOZ21, -0.44% dropped 3.8% to $2.293 a gallon, with both contracts posting losses of more than 4% for the week.

Read: Retail gasoline prices stand just pennies below their highest Thanksgiving price on record: report

December natural gas NGZ21, +0.24% rose 3.3% to $5.065 per million British thermal units, with prices 5.7% higher for the week.


By Myra P. Saefong and William Watts / Market Watch 11 18 2021



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