Oil above $56 as lower US stockpiles outweigh Covid and demand concerns

LONDON: Oil rose above $56 a barrel on Wednesday after industry data showed US crude inventories fell unexpectedly, outweighing persistent concerns about demand as coronavirus cases top 100 million globally.

Industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) said US crude inventories fell by 5.3 million barrels. Analysts had expected them to rise. Official inventory figures are due at 1530 GMT from the Energy Information Administration.

Brent crude had climbed 31 cents, or 0.6pc, to $56.22 a barrel by 1110 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 33 cents, or 0.6pc, to $52.94.

“Demand concerns should remain with us for some time,” said Eugen Weinberg of Commerzbank. “And yet the market currently appears determined to embrace the positive news instead.”

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Brent is near an 11-month high of $57.42 reached on Jan. 13, having recovered from a 21-year low below $16 in April due to a demand recovery particularly in China and huge supply cuts by OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+.

“Oil continues consolidating,” said Jeffrey Halley of brokerage OANDA. “The Saudi Arabian cuts, OPEC+ compliance above 85pc and an insatiable demand from Asia means that oil has seen its cyclical lows for 2021.”

In focus later will be the results of the US Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting. Analysts expect the central bank to stick to its dovish tone to help speed the economic recovery.

Still, the number of global coronavirus cases has surpassed 100 million as infections rise in Europe and the Americas, and Asia scrambles to contain fresh outbreaks.

China, the second-largest oil consumer, has recently grappled with a coronavirus resurgence, but official Chinese data showed 75 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, the lowest daily rise since Jan 11.

This eased concern of a sharp drop in travel that threatened a new hit to demand over the Lunar New Year, when hundreds of millions typically make journeys.

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