NEW YORK: Oil steadied on Tuesday as gains on hopes for a loosening of China’s strict COVID-19 controls were later offset by concerns that OPEC+ would keep its output unchanged at its upcoming meeting.
Brent crude futures were up 48 cents at $83.67 a barrel by 11:24 a.m. 1624 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were 53 cents higher at $77.77.
Chinese health officials said the country plans to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations for elderly people, aiming to overcome a key stumbling block in efforts to ease unpopular “zero-COVID” curbs.
“The prospect of a return to normality, in an economy that is the world’s largest oil importer, was enough to make oil prices jump in the first significant price rebound of the last two weeks,” said ActivTrades analyst Ricardo Evangelista.
Rare street protests in cities across China over the weekend were a vote against President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy and the strongest public defiance of his political career, China analysts said.
Oil prices, however, were hampered by concerns that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, would not adjust their output plans at their next meeting on Dec. 4.
Five OPEC+ sources said OPEC+ is likely to keep oil output policy unchanged at its Sunday meeting, while two sources said an additional production cut was also likely to be considered. Neither, however, thought another cut was highly likely.
The meeting, planned as an in-person gathering, may be made a partly or fully virtual event, sources said, which added to worries that a cut was not imminent.
“It being a virtual alone scenario may imply a greater likelihood of them doing nothing,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York.
OPEC+ started to lower its output target by 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in November, aiming to shore up oil prices.
Markets are also assessing the impact of a looming Western price cap on Russian oil.
Diplomats from the Group of Seven (G7) nations and the European Union have been discussing a cap on Russian oil between $65 and $70 a barrel, aiming to limit revenue to fund Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine without disrupting global oil markets.
However, EU governments on Monday failed to agree on the cap, with Poland insisting it should be set lower than the level proposed by the G7, diplomats said.
The price cap is due to come into effect on Dec. 5, and if there is no agreement the EU is set to implement harsher measures agreed at the end of May - a ban on all Russian crude oil imports from Dec. 5 and on petroleum products from Feb.5.