OPEC+ meets omicron: New variant clouds oil supply decision

OPEC+ meets omicron: New variant clouds oil supply decision



WASHINGTON (AP) — OPEC and allied oil-producing countries meet Thursday under the spikey shadow of a new COVID-19 threat, with uncertainty over the omicron variant's impact on the global economic recovery hanging over their decision on how much oil to pump to a world paying more for gasoline.

Officials from OPEC countries, led by Saudi Arabia, and their allies, led by Russia, will meet online and decide whether to stick with pre-omicron plans for steady, modest monthly increases in oil releases — a pace that has frustrated the United States and other oil-consuming nations as gas prices rise — or to scale back those planned upticks.

The fast-mutating variant led countries to impose barriers to travel when it emerged late last week. Americans had been celebrating what seemed to be a nearly normal Thanksgiving after some pandemic restrictions eased.

The price of a barrel of U.S. benchmark crude fell with news of omicron. It was about $78 a barrel a week ago and was trading at about $67 a barrel midday Wednesday. International benchmark Brent crude followed a similar path, falling from $79 a barrel a week ago to $70 Wednesday.

Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman earlier this week played down any impact the little-understood variant would have on oil demand, telling the kingdom’s Asharq al-Awsat newspaper: “We are not worried."

But OPEC ministers briefly postponed one of their meetings this week, hoping for more insight into whether the variant is likely to push the world back toward pandemic lockdowns or leave markets relatively unscathed.

Some analysts predicted that the OPEC+ alliance — made up of OPEC members and allied non-members like Russia — would act cautiously Thursday, cutting the amounts of their planned releases only slightly, if at all, pending more...

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