London — Oil prices rose on Wednesday after a surprise drop in US crude inventories, but demand concerns amid record increases in Covid-19 infections in some US states capped gains.

Brent crude futures rose 54c, or 1.3%, to $43.76 a barrel by 9.23am GMT. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 42c, or 1%, to $41.46 a barrel.

Inventories of crude oil in the US dropped by 6.8-million barrels last week to 531-million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday. Analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll were for an increase of 357,000 barrels. US government data is due later on Wednesday.

“A relief of 6.8-million barrels could normally help prices rise even further, but concerns over a new supply glut coming from August are capping gains,” Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets Bjørnar Tonhaugen said.

The pandemic is keeping alive concerns about falling fuel demand causing an oversupplied market as record numbers of coronavirus infections are reported globally, including in the US, the world’s biggest consumer of oil.

“The virus is spreading like wildfire across the Americas while Europe and Asia are displaying worrying signs of a second surge in cases,” Stephen Brennock of oil brokerage PVM said.

Six US states reported one-day records for Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark.

Indian refiners are cutting crude processing and shutting units for maintenance amid faltering fuel demand, officials at the companies said.

Attempts to provide relief amid the outbreak are in disarray as Republicans in the US disagreed over their own plan for providing $1-trillion in new coronavirus aid on Tuesday.

Analysts are concerned about the risks to any US recovery, while a new US Federal Reserve policy statement due to be released later on Wednesday will show how seriously central bankers assess them.


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