Oil Drops After Seventh Weekly Gain on Virus Mutation Concern

Oil fell in early Asian trading — after posting a seventh weekly gain — on concern a mutation of Covid-19 discovered in the U.K. could speed transmission of the virus and lead to more lockdown measures.

Futures in New York dropped nearly 2% after closing at the highest level in almost 10 months on Friday. More than 16 million Britons are now required to stay at home as afull lockdown came into force in London and the southeast of England, with some European countries taking steps to limit travel with the U.K.

The new development comes as vaccines are being rolled out in several countries and as the U.S. closes in on a stimulus plan. Talks on a relief package have made headway, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying congressional leaders now haveagreement on roughly $900 billion of spending to help the U.S. economy weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Crude has rallied around 35% since the end of October on a series of vaccine breakthroughs that have created expectations for a recovery in energy demand next year. A weaker dollar has also boosted the appeal of commodities like oil that are priced in the currency. In the short term, however, prices are being buffeted by the fast-spreading virus leading to more stay-at-home orders.

Prices
  • West Texas Intermediate for January delivery fell 1.6% to $48.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 7:57 a.m. in Singapore
  • Brent for February settlement dropped 1.3% to $51.59 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange after closing up 1.5% on Friday

Oil is avaccine trade right now with robust demand seen in the second half of 2021 as more people resume flying, Jeff Currie, the head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in a Bloomberg television interview on Friday. That’s when OPEC+ can return more supplies to the market, he said.

There are concerns, however, that rising prices may lure producers to tap capacity that’s been sidelined during the pandemic.Drilling rigs targeting crude oil in the U.S. rose for a fourth straight week and to the highest level since early May, according to data from Baker Hughes.

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