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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil futures ended slightly higher on Monday as crude and global markets rebounded from a tumble stoked by the discovery of a new coronavirus variant last week, although concerns over renewed lockdowns kept prices in check. The benchmark palm oil contract for February delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange closed up 9 ringgit, or 0.19%, to 4,858 ringgit ($1,146.57) a tonne.

“After a slump in broader markets on Friday, commodities and other instruments are trying to stabilise and waiting for the assessment of actual risk to the demand and other aspects due to the spread of the new variant,” said Anilkumar Bagani, research head of Mumbai-based vegetable oils broker Sunvin Group.

The Omicron variant has spread around the world, prompting Japan to close its borders to all foreigners and Australia to review plans to re-open to skilled migrants, even as more countries imposed travel restrictions.

Additional measures could cause more volatility in financial and commodity instruments going forward, Bagani added. Oil rebounded as some investors viewed Friday’s slump on concern about the Omicron variant as overdone, making palm a more attractive option for biodiesel feedstock.

Dalian’s most-active soyoil contract fell 1.1%, while its palm oil contract lost 1.4%. Soyoil prices on the Chicago Board of Trade were up 0.7%. Palm oil is affected by price movements in related oils as they compete for a share in the global vegetable oils market.

Deep negative import margins and palm oil’s narrow spread over competing edible oils have evaporated fresh buying in destination markets, Bagani said, adding, it could hurt optimism for Malaysia’s exports in December if this persists. Refinitiv Agriculture Research said the contract may ease towards support levels of 4,755-4,775 ringgit a tonne this week, pressured by renewed lockdowns and fears over the Omicron variant.

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