Oil prices increased on Thursday on investor relief following news that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster is capable of neutralizing the omicron variant.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $76.32 per barrel at 0624 GMT for an 0.65% increase after closing the previous session at $75.82 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $72.98 per barrel at the same time for a 0.85% raise after closing at $72.36 a barrel in the previous trading session.
Prices marked gains after the announcement that preliminary laboratory studies demonstrated that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine neutralized the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
"Our preliminary, first dataset indicate that a third dose could still offer a sufficient level of protection from disease of any severity caused by the Omicron variant," Ozlem Tureci, one of BioNTech’s two Turkish-German co-founders, told a news conference.
She said that broad vaccination and booster campaigns around the world could help better protect people everywhere and get through the upcoming winter in the northern hemisphere.
However, gains were limited as the omicron variant has been detected in 57 countries so far, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO warned in its weekly epidemiological report that even if the severity is equal or potentially even lower than the delta variant, it is expected that hospitalizations will increase if more people become infected.
The organization also noted that there will be a time lag between an increase in the incidence of cases and an increase in the incidence of deaths.
The report said more data is needed to assess whether the omicron variant may result in reduced protection from vaccines.
Omicron is the fifth SARS-CoV-2 variant designated as a Variant of Concern by WHO, following the alpha, beta, gamma, and delta variants.
- US crude stocks fall
Meanwhile, the decrease in US crude stocks is also supporting the upward trend in prices, creating positive market sentiments over greater demand.
US commercial crude oil inventories decreased 0.1% during the week ending Dec. 3, according to the latest data released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Inventories fell by 200,000 barrels to 432.9 million barrels against the market expectation of a 2.09 million-barrel rise.
However, gasoline inventories increased by 3.9 million barrels to 219.3 million barrels over that period.