Oil prices declined slightly on Friday as investors focused on news about COVID-19 vaccine, the US economic relief package and OPEC+ production cuts while fears over weak demand continue to exert pressure on prices.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $44.13 per barrel at 0638 GMT on Friday with a 0.15% decrease after closing Thursday at $44.20 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $41.77 per barrel at the same time for a 0.31% decrease after ending the previous session at $41.90 a barrel.
The oil prices increased after the possibility of an efficient COVID-19 vaccine and expectations that OPEC and its allies may extend production cuts into 2021 to stabilize oil market.
The OPEC+ group, which has curbed output since January 2017 to support prices, is now reducing production by 7.7 million barrels per day (b/d), down from cuts totaling 9.7 million b/d imposed from May 1 to Aug. 1.
Now investors have their eyes on the upcoming OPEC+ meetings on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 for a possible production cut decision, as the markets have been struggling with weak oil demand and supply glut caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Investors also monitor the developments about a stimulus package deal in the US for people and hard-hit businesses amid the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.
In a letter published on Thursday, a bipartisan coalition of 36 leading economists, corporate leaders, and policy experts called on Congress to pass an economic aid package before the end of the year.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University on Friday, the US, the world's largest oil-consuming country, still tops the number of cases above 11.7 million, while cases in India now total over 9 million, and Brazil follows with over 5.9 million cases.
By Sibel Morrow