London — Oil prices rose on Tuesday after more US states eased lockdowns and the EU sought to attract travellers, helping to offset concerns over fuel demand in India as Covid-19 cases soar.

Brent crude futures were 65c, or 0.96%, higher at $68.21 a barrel at 8.22am GMT, after climbing 1.2% on Monday. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures also ticked up 62c, or 0.1%, to $65.11 a barrel, after gaining 1.4% on Monday.

Prices are being supported by the prospect of a pick-up in fuel demand in the US and Europe, as New York state, New Jersey and Connecticut are set to ease pandemic curbs and the EU plans to open up to more foreign visitors who have been vaccinated, analysts said.

“The current strength is led by US petrol where demand is seen healthy as more motorists take on the roads,” Tamas Varga, analyst at PVM Oil Associates, said.

“Yesterday’s stock market strength is being followed through this morning in the oil market ... [as] the market focuses on the successful rollout of vaccine programmes in the US and other developed countries and not on the devastation in India and Brazil.”

For further signs of rising US oil demand, traders will be watching for reports on crude and product stockpiles from the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday and the US Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.

Five analysts polled by Reuters estimated on average that US crude inventories fell 2.2-million barrels in the week to April 30. Oil inventories rose in the previous two weeks.

The rate of refinery utilisation was expected to have increased by 0.5 percentage points last week, from 85.4% of total capacity in the week ended April 23, according to the poll.

A weaker dollar, hit by an unexpected slowdown in US manufacturing growth, also helped shore up oil prices on Tuesday. The lower dollar makes oil more attractive to buyers holding other currencies.

In India, the total number of Covid-19 infections so far rose to just short of 20-million, propelled by a 12th straight day of more than 300,000 new cases, which is expected to hit fuel demand in the world’s most populous country after China.

“The Indian situation is playing tug-of-war with optimism over a rebound in the West, but with a patchwork of restrictions across the country ranging in severity and duration, demand loss estimates are hard to pin down and a moving target,” said Vandana Hari, energy analyst at Vanda Insights.



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