Oil prices rise as demand improves, supplies tighten

Brent was up 85 cents, or 1.2%, at $73.54 a barrel by 0908 GMT, their highest since April 2019

  
Parkland Fuel's refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada February 17, 2021. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Parkland Fuel's refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada February 17, 2021. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

LONDON- Oil prices rose on Monday, hitting their highest levels in more than two years supported by economic recovery and the prospect of fuel demand growth as vaccination campaigns in developed countries accelerate.

Brent was up 59 cents, or 0.8%, at $73.28 a barrel by 1323 GMT, its highest since May 2019.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate gained 63 cents, or 0.9%, to $71.54 a barrel, its highest since October 2018.

"The two leading crude markers are trading at (almost) two-and-a-half-year highs amid a potent bullish cocktail of demand optimism and OPEC+ supply cuts," said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

"This backdrop of strengthening oil fundamentals have helped underpin heightened levels of trading activity."

Motor vehicle traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels in North America and much of Europe, and more planes are in the air as anti-coronavirus lockdowns and other restrictions are being eased, driving three weeks of increases for the oil benchmarks.

The mood was also buoyed by the G7 summit where the world's wealthiest Western countries sought to project an image of cooperation on key issues such as recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the donation of 1 billion vaccine doses to poor nations. 

"If the inoculation of the global population accelerates further, that could mean an even faster return of the demand that is still missing to meet pre-Covid levels," said Rystad Energy analyst Louise Dickson.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday that it expected global demand to return to pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2022, more quickly than previously anticipated.

IEA urged the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, known as OPEC+, to increase output to meet the rising demand. 

The OPEC+ group has been restraining production to support prices after the pandemic wiped out demand in 2020, maintaining strong compliance with agreed targets in May.

On the supply side, heavy maintenance seasons in Canada and the North Sea also helped prices stay high, Dickson said.

U.S. oil rigs in operation rose by six to 365, the highest since April 2020, energy services company Baker Hughes Co said in its weekly report.

It was the biggest weekly increase of oil rigs in a month, as drilling companies sought to benefit from rising demand.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, additional eporting by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise) ((bozorgmehr.sharafedin@thomsonreuters.com; Twitter: @bozorgmehr;))


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