Oil pulls back amid New York coronavirus curbs, gains for a 6th week

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices settled lower on Friday, as demand worries due to new coronavirus-related restrictions on business in New York overshadowed progress toward vaccination programs.

FILE PHOTO: The OML 25 Shell flow station, which was shut down by protesters, is seen in Kula kingdom in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria August 15, 2017. Picture taken 15, 2017. REUTERS/Tife Owolabi/File Photo

Brent futures settled down 28 cents, or 0.6% at $49.97 a barrel. The contract rose above $51 a barrel on Thursday to an early-March high.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 21 cents, or 0.5%, to $46.57, having risen almost 3% in the previous session.

“Restrictions in New York are weighing on prices,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures for Mizuho in New York. On Thursday, funds had placed net long bets as Brent topped $50 a barrel. “As we approach the close, the speculator community is reluctant to go home with a net long position,” he said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered New York City restaurants to suspend indoor dining effective Monday, amid an uptick in cases. [L1N2IR1QA]

For the week, Brent was up 1.5% and WTI was up less than 1%. That was the sixth consecutive week of gains for the first time since June.

Promising vaccine trials have helped lift some gloom over record increases in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths around the world, and Cuomo sounded a note of optimism, saying he expected 170,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to be in New York by Sunday or Monday.

Britain began inoculations this week and the United States could start vaccinations as early as the coming weekend, while Canada on Wednesday approved its first vaccine with initial shots due from next week.

Outside advisers for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have voted to endorse emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine, paving the way for the agency to authorise its use in a nation where COVID-19 has killed more than 285,000.

“The vaccine optimism ... seems to continue unscathed due to the back-to-back approvals vaccines are getting and the quicker-than-previously-thought rollout of the first campaigns in key markets,” Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu said.

A big jump in U.S. crude stockpiles last week served as a reminder that there is still plenty of supply available, but it was all but ignored as bulls ran through the market this week. [EIA/S]

Another signal of abundant supplies came on Friday as U.S. energy firms this week added the most oil and natural gas rigs in a week since January as producers keep returning to the wellpad. [RIG/U]

“The long-awaited rollout of vaccination programmes provided ample bullish fodder in the face of rising U.S. oil inventories,” brokerage PVM’s Stephen Brennock said.

A fall in world shares as markets confronted the risk of Britain leaving the European Union without a trade deal weighed on sentiment.

On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said a deal was unlikely.

Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo and Ahmad Ghaddar in London; Editing by Marguerita Choy and John Stonestreet