Oil prices were little changed on Tuesday before deadlocked talks between major producers about potential changes in February output are set to continue later in the day while fuel demand concerns lingered amid new COVID-19 lockdowns. Brent crude futures for March fell 6 cents, or 0.1%, to $51.03 a barrel by 0726 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for February was at $47.63 a barrel, up 1 cent. Both contracts fell more than 1% on Monday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, failed to agree on changes to February’s oil output.
Saudi Arabia argued against pumping more because of new lockdowns while Russia led calls for higher production, citing recovering demand. OPEC+ will resume the talks later on Tuesday. England went into a new lockdown on Monday as its COVID-19 cases surged following the emergence of a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.
At the same time, rising tensions in the Middle East supported oil prices. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps on Monday seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew amid a dispute between Tehran and Seoul over Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks because of U.S. sanctions.