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Crude oil futures up $3/b as market rebounds after Nov 26 plunge

Crude oil futures were sharply higher in mid-morning trade in Asia Nov. 29 as markets regained some calm after the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus sent oil prices plunging by more than 10% on Nov. 26.

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At 9:41 am Singapore time (0141 GMT), the ICE January Brent futures contract was up $3.24/b (4.46%) from the previous close at $75.96/b, while the NYMEX January light sweet crude contract was $3.44/b (5.05%) higher at $71.59/b.

Investors were returning to buy the dip after markets plunged by more than 10% Nov. 26 on reports of a new COVID-19 variant from South Africa that appeared to be more transmissible and better able to evade immune responses.

However, 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.

The emergence of the new variant may dampen hopes of a swift economic recovery after the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 first appeared in end 2019 and sent the global economy into a tailspin.

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.

"Given the lack of information on the latest variant, one could probably question the scale of Friday's selloff and whether it is really justified," ING analysts Warren Patterson and Wenyu Yao said in a note.

"The market seems to be coming to that realization in early morning trading today, with a relief rally underway. Initial reports suggest that symptoms from the Omicron variant are mild, but there are still question marks around how effective current vaccines will be against this latest variant," Patterson and Yao said.