MELBOURNE: prices slipped on Thursday, trimming big gains from the previous two sessions, amid uncertainty over near-term demand as cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus surge around the globe.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped 7 cents, or 0.1%, to $82.57 a barrel at 0221 GMT, after climbing 1.7% in the previous session.
Brent crude futures shed 6 cents, or 0.1%, to $84.61 a barrel, after rising 1.3% on Wednesday.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday showed fuel demand has taken a hit from Omicron, with gasoline stockpiles increasing by 8 million barrels in the week to Jan. 7, compared with analyst expectations for 2.4 million-barrel rise.
“Gasoline demand was weaker-than-expected and still below pre-pandemic levels, and if this becomes a trend, oil won’t be able to continue to push higher,” OANDA analyst Edward Moya said in a note.
However, Moya added, the Omicron impact is expected to short-lived.
“In reality, the weekly EIA report was less bullish than the headline number, as total crude oil inventories fell 4.8 million barrels but were more than offset by a stock build across refined products,” Citi said in a note.
ANZ Research pointed to commercial flight numbers running at 16% below 2019 levels for the week to Jan. 11. That was at least better than in the last week of December, when numbers were down 20% on pre-pandemic levels, according to FlightRadar 24.