By Adedapo Adesanya
The forecasts by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that the Omicron variant will slow the recovery of global oil demand pulled down the oil market on Tuesday by more than one per cent.
The Brent crude declined by 75 cents or 1.02 per cent to settle at $72.95 per barrel, while the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude depreciated by 86 cents or 1.22 per cent to trade at $69.87 per barrel.
The recent spike in COVID cases is set to slow demand recovery in the coming weeks, with jet fuel demand most affected, the IEA said in its latest Oil Market Report for December.
Due to new restrictions on international travel, the IEA revised down slightly—by 100,000 barrels per day —its demand growth forecast for both this year and next.
In 2021, the IEA expects oil demand to rise by 5.4 million barrels per day compared to 2020, and another 3.3 million barrels per day in 2022, reaching the pre-COVID levels of 99.5 million barrels per day.
Despite the downward revision, the IEA doesn’t expect a massive drop in demand of the magnitude the oil market seems to have priced in at the end of November when first reports of the new variant emerged.
“The surge in new COVID-19 cases is expected to temporarily slow, but not upend, the recovery in oil demand that is underway,” the IEA said in its report yesterday.
“New containment measures put in place to halt the spread of the virus are likely to have a more muted impact on the economy versus previous Covid waves, not least because of widespread vaccination campaigns. As a result, we expect demand for road transport fuels and petrochemical feedstocks to continue to post healthy growth,” the agency added.
The IEA also said that global oil production is set to outpace demand as soon as this month, led by growth in the US and Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) countries.
“Much needed relief for tight markets is on the way, with world oil supply set to overtake demand starting this month,” the IEA noted.
The Paris-based agency said that if (OPEC+) continues to unwind its cuts, the first quarter of 2022 will see a surplus of 1.7 million barrels per day, and the oversupply could grow to 2 million barrels per day in the second quarter of 2022.
“If that were to happen, 2022 could indeed shape up to be more comfortable,” the IEA said.
On Monday, OPEC said in its monthly report that the impact of the Omicron COVID variant on global oil demand would be mild and short-lived, and left its 2021 and 2022 demand growth forecasts unchanged.
Also denting prices was the US Dollar remaining near one-week highs on Tuesday bolstered by the producer prices data.
Analysts noted that as the US Federal Reserve is more like to lift interest rates, this is pushing additional strength into the greenback and is forcing price weakness into the oil.