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Futures Movers: U.S. oil prices retreat from a 2-week high

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Crude-oil prices traded lower Thursday, with a three day rally on the line for U. S. oil a day after prices finished at a two-week high.

Restrictions recently imposed in parts of the world to combat the omicron variant of coronavirus were being blamed for putting some pressure on energy demand and crude oil prices. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday recommended remote work where possible and advocated mask-wearing in public venues.

Countries including Denmark and China also have imposed some level of mobility restrictions to limit the spread of the contagion.

Despite news that the variant may not be as destructive to oil demand as first feared, “more countries worldwide are reintroducing restrictions and other measures to curb climbing case numbers,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy, in daily market commentary. That raises “fears that the global market may yet be adversely impacted, and consequently causing a bearish environment for oil prices.”

The measures are being imposed even as a report on Wednesday from Pfizer
PFE,
+1.83%

and BioNTech SE
BNTX,
-0.37%

 said results from an “initial laboratory study” showed that their COVID-19 vaccine neutralized the omicron variant of the coronavirus after three doses, or the full two-dose regimen plus a booster shot.

West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery 
CLF22,
-0.98%

CL.1,
-0.98%

fell 67 cents, or 0.9%, to trade at $71.69 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after rising on Wednesday by 0.4% to end at the highest level since Nov. 24 for a most-active contract, marking a third straight daily gain.

February Brent crude 
BRNG22,
-0.95%

BRN00,
-0.95%

declined by 73 cents, or 1%, to reach $75.09 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. That followed a 0.5% rise for the global benchmark in the prior session, which helped it notch its fifth straight gain and its highest finish since Nov. 25.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil inventory reports also were still being parsed as investors weighed concerns about the virus against supply-demand fundamentals.

The Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude inventories fell by a 200,000 barrels for the week ended Dec. 3. That marked a second weekly decline, but it was smaller fall than the 1.2 million-barrel decline that analyst polled by S&P Global Platts had estimated.

EIA data also showed stocks in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve declined by 1.7 million barrels to 600.9 million barrels last week, while total domestic petroleum stocks inched up by 100,000 barrels to 11.7 million barrels per day. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Okla., Nymex delivery hub edged up by 2.4 million barrels for the week.

In other Nymex dealings, prices for petroleum products edge up, with January gasoline
RBF22,
-0.07%

adding 0.2% to $2.152 a gallon and January heating oil
HOF22,
+0.00%

tacking on 0.4% to $2.27 a gallon.

Natural-gas futures briefly moved higher, before falling back, after the EIA on Thursday reported a third-straight weekly decline in U.S supplies of the commodity, down 59 billion cubic feet for the week ended Dec. 3. That compared with the average fall of 55 billion cubic feet forecast by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts.

January natural gas
NGF22,

was last down 3.8 cents, or 1%, at $3.881 per million British thermal units. It had moved higher in the immediate aftermath of the supply data.

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