Oil prices rose more than 4% on Wednesday as major producers prepared to discuss future output against the backdrop of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus triggering fresh travel restrictions which could dampen oil demand.
Equity markets, which often move in tandem with oil prices, also rebounded as investors bought after the previous session’s dip in the hope that Omicron would not derail an economic recovery.
Brent crude futures for February rose $3.25, or 4.7%, to $72.48 a barrel at 1241 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $3.01, or 4.6%, to $69.19 a barrel.
Both Brent and WTI front-month contracts in November posted their steepest monthly falls in percentage terms since March 2020, down 16% and 21% respectively.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is meeting on Wednesday after 1300 GMT and ahead of a meeting on Thursday of OPEC+, which groups OPEC with allies including Russia.
Some analysts expect OPEC+ to pause plans to add 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of supply in January. Year 2022 is expected to bring a supply surplus even at current demand levels.
“There is much to suggest that OPEC+ will not initially step up its oil production any further in an effort to maintain current prices at around $70 per barrel,” PVM analyst Stephen Brennock said.
“OPEC+ has erred on the side of caution since it began slowly boosting supplies and a decision to shelve a planned increase in output in January and keep its quota flat comports with its cautious approach.”
Several OPEC+ ministers, though, have said there was no need to change course.
But even if OPEC+ agrees to go ahead with its planned supply increase in January, producers may struggle to add that much.
A Reuters’ survey found OPEC pumped 27.74 million bpd in November, up 220,000 bpd from the previous month, but that was below the 254,000bpd increase allowed for OPEC members under the OPEC+ agreement.
In a bearish sign for demand, data from the American Petroleum Institute industry group showed US crude stocks fell by 747,000 barrels in the week ended November 26, according to market sources, a smaller-than-expected decline.
Government stockpile data is due at 1530 GMT.