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Oil prices claw back some of Friday’s rout, as traders eye omicron variant, OPEC+ developments

By Myra P. Saefong and Barbara Kollmeyer / Market Watch

SAN FRANCISCO
Petroleumworld 11 29 2021

Oil futures rallied Monday to recoup a portion of the steep decline on Friday, as markets scrambled to assess the coronavirus variant omicron.

Investors are also awaiting the outcome of this week’s OPEC meetings, some of which have reportedly been delayed due to recent price action.

Declared a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization’s technical advisory group, the new strain has sparked fresh travel restrictions around the globe. For the commodity, investors are worried about weakness in demand as recoveries potentially get tripped up.

Still, “as long as there are no new lockdowns that would derail the economic recovery, then oil should stabilize,” analysts at Sevens Report Research wrote in Monday’s newsletter.

West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery CL00, -2.90% CLF22, -2.90% was up $1.80, or 2.6%, to settle at $69.95 a barrel, after touching an intraday high at $72.93. The contract slid $10.24, or 13.1%, to close at $68.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday, the biggest one-day drop for a front-month contract since April 20, 2020, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Global benchmark January Brent crude BRNF22, -3.23%, which expires at the end of Tuesday’s trading session, rose 72 cents, or 1%, to $73.44 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. On Friday, Brent tumbled $9.50, or 11.6%, to $72.72 a barrel, the biggest one-day percentage decline since April 21, 2020, with both WTI and Brent seeing their lowest closes since Sept. 9.

Friday’s selloff came on a shortened day of trading following the Thanksgiving Day holiday, with lower volumes potentially exacerbating any moves. The view that Friday’s selling went too far was gaining momentum at the start of the week, as U.S. benchmark stock indexes traded on a mixed note.

Price-wise for oil, “it’s possible that the kneejerk reaction to omicron is overdone, and if the news doesn’t get worse, we should see a recovery toward the $74 mark,” the 100-day moving average, said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote, in a Monday note.

“If, however the news gets worse, we shall see a further slide below the $70 mark, but the downside should be limited as the worsening omicron news would also revive the expectation of tighter OPEC supply,” she said.

A growing view emerging from last week is that the sharp selloff will give major oil producing nations a reason to pause planned production increases. A pair of technical meetings for Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries this week has reportedly been shifted so that the group can assess the variant.

OPEC and allies, known as OPEC+, pushed a joint technical committee to Wednesday from Monday, according to Bloomberg and other media outlets, citing sources. A joint ministerial monitoring committee has reportedly been shifted to Thursday from Tuesday.

Following a monthly meeting in early November, the OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting, where a decision on production levels is expected, was scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 2.

“The big market signal this week will come from how OPEC+ decides to respond to the threat of the omicron variant,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy, in a Monday note.

“The group is not habitual in making knee-jerk policy decisions, and prefers to stay behind the demand curve, so we could expect either a continued conservative approach of bringing back 400,000 [barrels per day] on a monthly basis, or an even more cautious maneuver that holds even more supply back until the COVID-19 impact chips fall on the table,” she said.

In a research note dated Monday, analysts at J.P. Morgan wrote that “OPEC+ is not immune to the impacts of underinvestment analyzed over the past 18 months. They estimate the “true” OPEC spare capacity in 2022 to be roughly 2 million barrels per day, which is 43% below the consensus estimate of 4.8 million barrels per day.

Incorporating that model of OPEC+ true capacity, J.P. Morgan analysts expect Brent oil to “overshoot” to $125 a barrel in 2022 and $150 a barrel in 2023.

Read: Oil could hit $150 a barrel with OPEC+ ‘in the driver’s seat,’ says J.P. Morgan

As for omicron, some health experts in South Africa have reportedly said the new variant seems to only cause mild symptoms, though much more data are still needed. But countries have been rolling out restrictions, with Israel and Japan shutting their borders completely to foreign visitors, as more cases pop in Europe and elsewhere.

Read: More omicron cases pop up as world scrambles to learn more about latest COVID strain

Meanwhile, negotiations to restore the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, were held on Monday, according to a tweet from Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov. The participants agreed on “further immediate steps during the seventh round of negotiations which started quite successfully,” Ulyanov tweeted.

Elsewhere across the energy complex, December gasoline RBZ21, -2.08% rose nearly 2.4% to $2.077 a gallon, after sinking 12.5% on Friday. December heating oil HOZ21, -2.42% climbed almost 2.8% to $2.152 a gallon, after dropping 12.1% Friday. The December contracts expire at the end of Tuesday’s session.

January natural gas NGF22, -4.12% NG00, -4.12% slid 11.4% to $4.854 per million British thermal units, after a more than 7% climb on Friday. Analysts attributed Monday’s loss to some forecasts for warmer weather in parts of the U.S.

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By Myra P. Saefong and Barbara Kollmeyer   / Market Watch

marketwatch.com 11 29 2021

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