Crude oil markets showed resilience at the start of the Nov. 29-Dec. 3 trading week, after free-falling at the end of the previous week as the emergence of a new and highly infectious strain of COVID-19 spooked investors.
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ICE January Brent crude futures stood at $76.16/b at 0300 GMT Nov. 29, up $3.44/b (4.73%) from the Nov. 26 settlement.
Middle East Crude
** Focus in the Middle East crude market will be on the upcoming OPEC+ meet Dec. 2 and the issuance of official selling prices, or OSPs, for January by Middle East producers lead by Saudi Aramco.
** With the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, concerns on fresh mobility restrictions could weigh on crude demand in the months ahead. Market participants expect the OPEC+ alliance to factor in developments on the new variant when taking a decision on deciding production output in the upcoming meet.
** For January, OSPs could see a hike on the back of a sharp jump in the sour complex structure through November. While a hike of around 50 cents/b-$1/b is expected across Asia-bound crude grades, traders suggest that too sharp a hike could cap crude demand next month.
** Dubai cash/futures (M1/M3) averaged $3.27/b in the week ended Nov. 26, against $3.46/b in the week ended Nov. 19.
** Intermonth spreads were lower during midmorning trade Nov. 29 with January/February pegged at 51 cents/b, down 3 cents/b from the Asia close Nov. 26.
** January Brent/Dubai Exchange of Futures for Swaps was pegged at $3.84/b at midmorning Nov. 29, down 21 cents/b from the Asia close Nov. 26.
Asia Pacific Crude
** Trading activity in the Asia Pacific sweet crude market is expected to remain thin in the last week of the January trading cycle, with most end-users having already fulfilled their procurement requirements.
** For condensate grades, market participants will be looking out for the outcome of Indonesia's Pertamina tender, as well as China's Fuhaichuang tender. Sentiment for condensate grades has turned slightly bearish with naphtha cracks coming under pressure, sources said.
** In Far East Russian grades, traders will continue to monitor spot trading activity, which may see easing spot differentials amid slow demand from end-users and relatively narrower Brent/Dubai EFS as compared to early-month.
** Market participants will also be keeping an eye January-loading Australian heavy sweet crudes such as Vincent and Van Gogh, where spot premiums could move sideways despite a relatively shorter loading program on month amid softening LSFO cracks.
** Arbitrage flow of the US' WTI Midland crude into Asia is expected to increase amid a steeply widening WTI/Brent spread and narrowing backwardation.
** Spot differentials for Brazil's Tupi are likely to remain weak amid tepid buying interest from Chinese independent refineries.
** Crude oil futures were rallying in midmorning trade in Asia Nov. 29, as markets regained some calm after reports of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus sent oil prices plunging by more than 10% on Nov. 26.
** Analysts cautioned Nov. 29 that the impact of the new variant was still unclear. "It's early days, with a lot more concern than facts. The virus may well be more transmissible, but it's hard to be sure yet. The symptoms are different from Delta, and seem to be mild in vaccinated young people (primarily fatigue), but it's fair to say that vaccinated young people have not been the most vulnerable group in the pandemic so far," ANZ analysts Brian Martin and Daniel Hynes said in a note.
** Several countries have already announced bans on flights from South Africa and neighboring countries, while Israel has become the first country to ban entry to all foreigners for 14 days from Nov. 28.
** In the week ended Nov. 26, the international crude oil benchmarks were lower on the week. The January contract for ICE Brent futures was down 7.82% on the week to settle at $72.72/b, while the January contract for NYMEX light sweet crude was 10.26% lower at $68.15/b.