By Firdevs Yuksel
ISTANBUL (AA) - Oil prices mixed on Friday as investors were cautious due to the surging COVID-19 omicron variant, although new findings that omicron to be milder than previously thought.
During a thin trading in pre-Christmas trading, international benchmark Brent crude was trading at $76.52 per barrel at 0659 GMT for a 0.10% decrease after closing the previous session at $76.64 a barrel, in international markets.
The US markets are closed for sessions on Friday - Christmas Eve, in observance of the Christmas holiday.
The positive outlook in the markets was supported by the macroeconomic data announced in the US. The growth data for the third quarter of the country was revised from 2.1% to 2.3%.
Following the third-quarter data, the US economy contracted by 3.4% last year, while the growth expectation for 2021 rose to 5.6%, marking the highest level since 1984.
Moreover, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index in the US increased by 6.3 points in December compared to the previous month and reached the highest level of the last five months with 137.9.
Rising natural gas prices especially in Asia and Europe, encourage the use of relatively cheaper oil in electricity generation and enhance the upward movement of prices over the concerns that demand will outstrip supply.
Dissipating concerns over the omicron variant of coronavirus have spurred a relief rally in global markets ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Patients infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus have a lower risk of hospitalization compared to those who contracted the delta variant and are significantly less likely to develop severe symptoms, according to a study by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Patients testing positive for omicron are 50% - 70% less likely to be admitted to the hospital and 30% - 45% less likely to go to emergency rooms, the agency said.
The UKHSA analysis mirrored those by Public Health Scotland and Imperial College London on Wednesday which also found omicron to be milder than previously thought when compared to the delta variant.
These studies were also supported by data from South Africa, where the new variant originated.
The US health regulator, Food and Drug Administration, approved a second at-home drug treatment for coronavirus one day after the agency gave a green light to Pfizer's Paxlovid.
However, investors still remain cautious over anticipated lower global oil demand from surging COVID-19 omicron variant cases and the potential adoption of more restrictive measures.
Italy, France, Malta and Nigeria on Thursday reported the highest daily figures since the start of the pandemic.
With holiday plans hanging in the balance for millions of people, the omicron variant has been confirmed in all 50 states roughly three weeks after it was first detected in the US. Multiple states and territories set records for seven-day averages, including New York, Maine and Washington.
More countries are now increasing virus-related restrictions in the face of record numbers of cases.
Belgium tightened restrictions to keep COVID-19 cases low in the holiday season.
The Greek government has cancelled all seasonal public festivals and made face masks mandatory in all public areas, both indoor and outdoor, from Friday until Jan. 3. All travelers coming to Greece will be required to repeat tests for COVID-19 on the second and fourth day after their entry.