Oil rises on demand hopes after days of sell-off

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Oil prices rose on Wednesday, boosted by demand hopes on progress made in U.S. vaccine rollouts, while uncertainty over how much supply OPEC+ will restore to the market at its Thursday meeting and a big build in U.S. crude stocks capped gains.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 18 cents, or 0.3%, to $59.93 a barrel by 0356 GMT, recovering from three days of losses.

Brent crude futures rose 29 cents, or 0.46%, to $62.99 a barrel, up from four days of losses.

Both futures had dipped in Asia’s early morning trading.

Demand recovery hopes thanks to the rollouts of vaccine kept oil prices supported, analysts said.

The U.S. will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday after Merck & Co agreed to make rival Johnson & Johnson’s inoculation.

Meanwhile, the market’s attention is on a forthcoming Thursday meeting by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, together called OPEC+, at a time when they are generally positive on the oil market outlook compared with a year ago when they slashed supply to boost prices.

The market widely expects them to ease production cuts, which were the deepest ever, by about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), with OPEC’s leader, Saudi Arabia, ending its voluntary production cut of 1 million bpd.

However, a JTC document, seen by Reuters, called “for cautious optimism,” citing “the underlying uncertainties in the physical markets and macro sentiment, including risks from COVID-19 mutations that are still on the rise”.

Reinforcing concerns of potential oversupply, the American Petroleum Institute industry group reported U.S. crude stocks rose by 7.4 million barrels in the week to Feb. 26, in stark contrast to analysts’ estimates for a draw of 928,000 barrels. [API/S]

“The recent selloff may help reinforce Saudi’s cautious stance and delay any production increase,” said Stephen Innes, global market strategist at Axi.

“It’s probably something that could sway the OPEC+ increase more back toward the 500,000 bpd as opposed to the 1.5 million bpd,” he said.

Source: REUTERS

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