Oil prices rose on Thursday to extend several consecutive days of gains, buoyed by data showing U.S. fuel demand holding up well despite soaring omicron coronavirus infections.
Brent crude futures rose 17 cents, or 0.2%, to $79.40 a barrel at 0217 GMT, climbing for the fourth day in a row. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 23 cents, or 0.3%, to $76.79 a barrel for a seventh straight session of gains.
On Wednesday, Brent crude futures rose to as much as $79.20 a barrel before retreating to trade 24 cents down on the day at $78.70 by 1427 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude edged 32 cents lower to $75.65 after touching $76.17.
U.S. Energy Information Administration data on Wednesday showed crude oil inventories fell by 3.6 million barrels in the week to Dec. 24, which was more than analysts polled by Reuters had expected.
At the same time, gasoline and distillate inventories fell, compared with analysts’ forecasts for stock builds, indicating demand remains strong.
OPEC+, Omicron Tops Concerns for Oil Traders
Oil prices have been underpinned by Ecuador, Libya and Nigeria declaring forces majeures this month on part of their oil production because of maintenance issues and oilfield shutdowns.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that the OPEC+ group of producers has resisted calls from Washington to boost output because it wants to provide the market with clear guidance and not deviate from the policy on gradual increases to productions.
Investors are awaiting an OPEC+ meeting on Jan. 4, at which the alliance will decide whether to proceed with a planned production increase of 400,000 barrels per day in February.
Further supporting sentiment, governments around the world were trying to limit the impact of record numbers of new Covid-19 infections on economic growth by easing testing rules and narrowing who needs to isolate as close contacts of positive cases.
China, the world’s biggest oil importer, reported 207 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 27 new asymptomatic cases on Thursday, but no new deaths. Australian cases hit a new record of more than 19,000 daily infections