Crude-oil prices traded lower Thursday morning, with a three day rally on the line for U. S. oil after finishing at a two-week high on Wednesday.
Some 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, after British 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.
The measures are being imposed even as a report on Wednesday from Pfizer
and BioNTech SE
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.
“Despite the optimism of the last few days, some doubts remain on various aspects of the Omicron variant. Until there is more clarity on this matter, oil gains are likely to be capped,” wrote Ricardo Evangelista, senior analyst at ActivTrades, in a daily research note.
West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery
was trading 73 cents, or 1%, lower at $71.63 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
was giving up 71 cents, or 0.9%, to reach $75.11 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, following 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.