Oil reversed losses, resuming its recovery from a rout earlier in the week as sentiment firmed in wider markets.
West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1.3 per cent, after dropping 1.1 per cent early Wednesday. European equities climbed a second day and U.S. index futures moved higher.
Crude tumbled 7.3 per cent on Monday on concern that the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus will continue to restrict the economic recovery. Futures also dipped earlier Wednesday after the American Petroleum Institute was said to report an 806,000-barrel gain in U.S. crude inventories. If confirmed by government data, that would be the first weekly increase since May. But the API also reported a large decline at the key pricing point of Cushing, Oklahoma.
Crude has pulled back this month — after hitting the highest since 2014 — as the delta variant surges in parts of Asia and spreads in the U.S. and Europe. Demand concern has coincided with prospects for higher supply, with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies agreeing to boost production from August.
Oil is now “in a more neutral phase,” said Hans Van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “We see increased uncertainty regarding this delta variant, which could lead to lower oil demand recovery.”
WTI for September delivery advanced 86 cents to US$68.06 a barrel at 10:33 a.m. London time
Brent for the same month rose 93 cents to US$70.28 a barrel
The API also reported a 3.31 million-barrel weekly build in gasoline inventories, even as a Bloomberg survey predicted a draw of more than 1 million barrels. Meanwhile, demand for the motor fuel in the U.S. rose 2.2 per cent last week after two weeks of declines, according to Descartes Labs.
There are signs that investor money is beginning to flow back into the crude market. The U.S. Oil Fund ETF, or USO, saw its biggest inflow since May this week. Other crude exchange-traded products have also received new money.