A liquefied natural gas tanker at a port of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation in Tianjin, China. Picture: REUTERS/STRINGER
A liquefied natural gas tanker at a port of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation in Tianjin, China. Picture: REUTERS/STRINGER

Singapore — Oil gained more ground on Wednesday as a US coronavirus fiscal aid package and a decline in crude oil inventories lifted prices.

Brent crude futures rose 19c, or 0.4%, to $51.28 a barrel, by 2.55am GMT and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 29c, or 0.6%, to $48.29.

“Oil prices have remained supported by a weaker US dollar overnight and have finally found a friend in the API inventory report,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi, a broker.

“This morning the American Petroleum Institute reported a much larger draw versus consensus in crude oil inventories for the week ending December 25.”

The dollar fell to its lowest in more than two years against the euro as currency traders looked past a new delay in US stimulus cheques and maintained bets that additional financial aid was still likely.

The Democrat-led US House of Representatives voted to meet President Donald Trump’s demand to increase direct Covid-19 aid payments to Americans hurting from the pandemic to $2,000.

Asian shares retreated as investors cashed in on a recent rally, while the euro flirted with highs not seen in more than two years on as hopes of a gradual global economic recovery.

Oil prices could gain strength as vaccination programmes around the world begin next year, allowing countries to relax restrictions on movement and business activity.

US physical crude oil grades strengthened on Tuesday as the API reported a decline in stockpiles, dealers said.

Crude oil stocks fell by 4.8-million barrels last week to about 492.9-million barrels, exceeding analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a draw of 2.6-million barrels, data from API showed.

In the short-term, concerns over coronavirus lockdowns are likely to cap gains.

A new variant of the virus in the UK has led to the reimposition of movement restrictions, hitting near-term demand and weighing on prices, while hospital admissions and infections have surged in parts of Europe and Africa.

Fossil-fuel demand in coming years could remain softer even after the pandemic as countries seek to limit emissions to slow climate change. Oil companies BP and Total published forecasts that include scenarios where global oil demand may have peaked in 2019.

A January 4 meeting of oil cartel Opec and allies including Russia (Opec+), also looms over the market.

Opec+ is tapering record oil output cuts made this year to support the market. The group is set to boost output by 500,000 barrels a day in January, and Russia supports another increase of the same amount in February.


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