By Florence Tan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose more than $ 1 a barrel on Monday after leading exporter Saudi Arabia raised the prices of its crude sold to Asia and the United States, and the indirect US-Iran talks on relaunching a nuclear deal appeared to be at an impasse.
Brent crude futures for February gained $ 1.69, or 2.4%, to $ 71.57 a barrel at 12:33 GMT, while US West Texas Intermediate crude for January was at $ 67.92 per barrel, up $ 1.66, or 2.5%.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday raised official January selling prices for all grades of crude sold to Asia and the United States by up to 80 cents from the previous month.
The price hikes were implemented despite a decision last week by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, including Russia, a group known as OPEC +, to continue increasing supplies of 400,000 barrels a day in January.
Prices were also supported by the dwindling prospects for increased Iranian oil exports after the collapse of indirect US-Iran talks on the bailout of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last week. EU officials expressed dismay on Friday at the sweeping demands of the new hard-line Iranian government. Talks are expected to resume mid-week.
Both benchmarks rebounded after falling last week for their sixth consecutive week for the first time since November 2018 amid concerns that the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus could impact global economic growth and demand for fuel.
Another sign of the turmoil triggered by the ever-evolving pandemic, the head of the International Monetary Fund has said the global lender is likely to lower its estimates of global economic growth due to the new variant.
Omicron spread to about a third of U.S. states on Sunday.
(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Stephen Coates)