LONDON - Oil prices fell on Friday but remained on track to post weekly gains with demand growing faster than supply, while vaccinations are expected to alleviate the impact of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections across the globe.
Brent crude futures for September, which expires on Friday, dropped 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $75.93 a barrel by 0844 GMT, following a 1.75% jump on Thursday.
The more active Brent contract for October was down 14 cents, or 0.2% to $74.96 per barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 15 cents, or 0.2%, to $73.47 a barrel, whittling down a 1.7% rise from Thursday.
But both benchmark contracts were headed for gains of around 2% for the week.
Even with coronavirus cases rising in the United States, all around Asia and parts of Europe, analysts said higher vaccination rates would limit the need for the harsh lockdowns that gutted demand during the peak of the pandemic last year.
"The oil market no longer appears to be viewing the issue of the Delta variant with quite the same alarm as it was at the beginning of last week," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.
"There is confidence that the ongoing vaccination campaigns in the industrialised countries will prevent any reintroduction of widespread mobility restrictions," he added.
Analysts also point to a rapid rebound in India's gasoline consumption and industrial production following its COVID-19 surge earlier this year as a sign that economies are more resilient to the pandemic.
"Delta is a risk, but is it going to derail demand growth in the second half We may not see that," said Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar.
Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is expected to raise prices across various grades of crude oil it sells to Asia in September for a second straight month, tracking the strength in Middle East benchmarks, trade sources said.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, additional reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Koustav Samanta in Singapore; Editing by Christopher Cushing & Simon Cameron-Moore) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @bozorgmehr;))