Washington, D.C. – Crude oil prices initially tumbled more than $10.00 to $68 a barrel on Friday after news of the Omicron COVID-19 Coronavirus variant broke.
Meanwhile, consumers caught a little break as the national average price for a gallon of gas dropped to $3.39, down a penny since last week.
“But for now, the upward pricing pressure due to tightened supply and high demand seems to have abated, and that will likely result in pump prices stabilizing,” Gross stated.
Today’s national average of $3.39 is a penny less than a month ago and $1.27 more than a year ago.
The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets: Oklahoma ($2.95), Texas ($2.98), Arkansas ($3.02), Missouri ($3.04), Kansas ($3.04), Mississippi ($3.04), Kentucky ($3.06), South Carolina ($3.09), Tennessee ($3.10) and Wisconsin ($3.10).
The nation’s top 10 most expensive markets: California ($4.71), Hawaii ($4.35), Nevada ($3.96), Washington ($3.88), Oregon ($3.79), Arizona ($3.77), Alaska ($3.71), Idaho ($3.68), Utah ($3.67) and Pennsylvania ($3.59).
Oil Market Dynamics
At the close of Friday’s formal trading session, WTI decreased by $10.24 to settle at $68.15. Crude prices fell amid concerns about the new COVID-19 Coronavirus Omicron variant and the travel restrictions announced by the Joe Biden administration.
With little known about the new variant, it is unclear what long-term impact it may have on crude prices. Before reports of the new variant, Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s weekly report revealed that total domestic crude supply increased by 1 million bbl to 434 million bbl.
However, prices rose last week despite President Joe Biden’s announcement that the federal government will make available up to 32 million bbl of oil held in the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and accelerate the timeline for the sale of an additional 18 million bbl of SPR oil, as mandated by Congress. The effort is expected to be coordinated with the release of oil from other major crude consuming countries, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the U.K, to help reduce the price of crude.
How much of a price impact, and how long the price relief at the pump will last, depends on the total amount of oil that moves into the market after the coordinated releases around the globe. For this week, crude prices could decline further if the global market begins to see an increase in supply from the joint releases or EIA’s next report shows another increase in total domestic supply.
Additionally, market watchers will keep their eye on the impact of the Omicron variant on the oil market.
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