oil industry

Oil plunges 10% on new coronavirus variant concerns

Oil plunges 10% on new coronavirus variant concerns

OIL. Pump jacks operate at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas, August 22, 2018.

Nick Oxford/Reuters

(1st UPDATE) Oil falls with global equities markets on Friday, November 26, on fears the new COVID-19 variant could dampen economic growth and fuel demand

Oil prices plunged more than 10% on Friday, November 26, the largest one-day drop since April 2020, as a new COVID-19 variant spooked investors and added to concerns that a supply surplus could swell in the first quarter.

Oil fell with global equities markets on fears the variant could dampen economic growth and fuel demand. Britain and European countries have restricted travel from southern Africa, where the variant was detected.

Brent crude fell $8.77, or 10.7%, to $73.45 a barrel by 10:59 am EDT (1459 GMT).

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $9.12, or 11.6%, at $69.27 a barrel, after the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, November 25, in the United States.

Both contracts are heading for their fifth week of losses and their steepest falls in absolute terms since April 2020, when WTI turned negative for the first time.

Global authorities reacted with alarm on Friday to a new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa, with the European Union and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.

Hours after Britain banned flights from South Africa and neighboring countries and asked travelers returning from there to quarantine, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against hasty travel bans.

Investors were also watching China’s response to the US release of millions of barrels of oil from strategic reserves in coordination with other large consuming nations, part of its bid to cool prices.

Such a release is likely to swell supplies in coming months, an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries source said, based on findings of a panel of experts that advises OPEC ministers.

The Economic Commission Board expects a surplus of 400,000 barrels per day in December, rising to 2.3 million bpd in January and 3.7 million bpd in February if consumer nations went ahead with the releases, the OPEC source said.

The forecasts cloud the outlook for a December 2 meeting of OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, when the group will discuss whether to adjust its plan to increase output by 400,000 bpd in January and beyond.

“OPEC’s initial assessment of the coordinated [stockpile] release and the sudden appearance of a new variant of the coronavirus raises serious concerns about economic growth and the oil balance in coming months,” PVM analyst Tamas Varga said. – Rappler.com