Oil falls with U.S. stocks despite OPEC+ seen keeping output steady

FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind the chimneys of the Total Grandpuits oil refinery southeast of Paris
FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind the chimneys of the Total Grandpuits oil refinery southeast of Paris, France, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

January 4, 2021

By Scott DiSavino

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices fell from multi-month highs in volatile trade on Monday as U.S. stocks eased on concerns over the outcome of runoff elections in Georgia.

The market declined despite expectations the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies will hold off on increasing output in February and optimism over a vaccine-driven economic recovery.

Brent futures dropped 73 cents, or 1.4%, to $51.07 a barrel by 10:56 a.m. EST (1556 GMT), while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 93 cents, or 1.9%, to $47.59.

Earlier in the session, both benchmarks rose and fell by $1 a barrel with WTI reaching its highest since February and Brent its highest since March.

The S&P 500 and the Dow also eased from record levels on the first trading day of the year as President Donald Trump travels to Georgia in a bid to keep the U.S. Senate in the hands of his Republican Party.

OPEC and allies, a group known as OPEC+, were meeting on Monday. Most OPEC+ officials voiced opposition to increasing oil output from February when they met on Sunday, three OPEC+ sources told Reuters.

OPEC+ increased output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) this month but some members have questioned the need to increase more from February due to an upsurge in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kuwait’s oil minister said he expected a gradual recovery in oil demand, particularly in the second half of 2021, as many countries start to distribute coronavirus vaccines.

“It appears that OPEC+ is recognizing the fact of more COVID lockdowns and that perhaps it is not the time to be raising production just yet,” said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Britain began vaccinating its population with the COVID-19 shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca on Monday.

Tensions in the Middle East also supported oil prices earlier in the day after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a South Korean-flagged tanker and its crew were detained and accused of polluting the Gulf with chemicals.

(Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Barbara Lewis)