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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Oil begins new year with gains, Omicron worries linger

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By Mohi Narayan and Naveen Thukral

NEWDELHI – Oil prices firmed on Monday as the market kicked off 2022 on a positive note with suppliers in focus ahead of Tuesday’s OPEC+ meeting, although surging COVID-19 cases continued to dent demand sentiment.

Brent crude added 56 cents, or 0.72%, to $78.34 a barrel, as of 0710 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 52 cents, or 0.69%, to $75.73 a barrel.

“Tightened supplies from Libya ahead of an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) meeting kept the market sentiments positive,” said Abhishek Chauhan, head of commodities at Swastika Investmart Ltd.

Libya’s state oil firm said on Saturday the country’s oil output would be reduced by 200,000 barrels per day for a week due to maintenance on a main pipeline between the Samah and Dahra fields.

Meanwhile, OPEC+ will probably stick to their plan to add 400,000 barrels per day of supply in February, four sources said.

Last year, oil prices rose around 50%, spurred by the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic slump and producer restraint, even as infections reached record highs worldwide.

U.S. health experts warned Americans to prepare for severe disruptions in coming weeks, with infection rates likely to worsen amid increased holiday travel, New Year celebrations and school reopenings following winter breaks.

Oil analysts have lowered their price forecasts for 2022 as the Omicron coronavirus variant poses headwinds to recovering fuel demand and risks a supply glut as producers pump more oil, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

A survey of 35 economists and analysts forecast Brent crude would average $73.57 a barrel in 2022, about 2% lower than the $75.33 consensus in November. It is the first reduction in the 2022 price forecast since the August poll.

U.S. crude is projected to average $71.38 per barrel in 2022, versus the previous month’s $73.31 consensus.

U.S. energy firms added oil and natural gas rigs for a record 17 months in a row as higher prices lured some drillers back to the wellpad after last year’s coronavirus-driven decline in demand.

U.S. crude oil production rose to 11.47 million barrels per day in October, up 6% from a month earlier, as output soared in the Gulf of Mexico as the region recovered from hurricanes, according to a monthly report issued on Thursday by the Energy Information Administration.

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