© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, U.S., November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus MordanT/File Photo
By Noah Browning
LONDON (Reuters) -Oil prices slumped by about $3 on Monday as surging cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Europe and the United States stoked investor worries that new mobility restrictions to combat its spread could hit fuel demand.
futures fell by $2.79, or 3.7%, to $70.73 a barrel by 1330 GMT while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down $3.26, or 4.6%, at $67.60.
“Oil prices are getting pummelled again as sentiment turns south and countries ponder deepening restrictions and lockdowns,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.
“None of this bodes well for crude demand in the first quarter of the year.”
The Netherlands went into lockdown on Sunday and the possibility of more COVID-19 restrictions being imposed ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays loomed over several European countries.
U.S. health officials urged Americans on Sunday to get booster shots, wear masks and be careful if they travel over the winter holidays, wuith the Omicron variant raging across the world and set to take over as the dominant strain in the United States.
Meanwhile, U.S. energy companies this week added oil and rigs for a second week in a row.
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose by three to 579 in the week to Dec. 17, representing its highest since April 2020, energy services busines Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on Friday.
Lower exports are expected from Russia, however, with exports and transit of oil from the country planned at 56.05 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2022 versus 58.3 million tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2021, a quarterly export schedule seen by Reuters showed on Friday.
Meanwhile, OPEC+ compliance with oil production cuts stood at 117% in November, up 1% from the previous month, two sources from the group told Reuters, as output continues to lag agreed targets.
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