LONDON- Oil prices rose on Thursday as crude stockpiles in the United States, the world's top oil consumer, fell to their lowest since January 2020, with Brent crude oil prices pushing back past $75 a barrel.
Brent crude oil futures were up 45 cents, or 0.6%, at $75.19 a barrel by 1342 GMT, having traded as high as $75.55. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were up 56 cents, or 0.8%, to $72.95 a barrel.
In June, Brent topped $75 for the first time in more than two years but fell back this month on fears that the rapid spread of the coronavirus Delta variant could hurt demand and a deal reached by leading producers in OPEC to boost supply.
"The (oil inventory) falls suggest the rise in cases of COVID-19's Delta variant is having little impact on mobility," ANZ analysts wrote in a note.
Crude inventories fell by 4.1 million barrels in the week to July 23, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, helped by lower imports and a decline in weekly output.
The U.S. economic recovery is still on track despite the rise in infections, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday, flagging ongoing talks around the eventual withdrawal of monetary policy support.
"While the risk to the demand outlook could increase due to governments across Europe reducing permission for public gatherings, we note that markets have already undergone several rounds of mobility restrictions ... yet, the global recovery was not significantly derailed," Citi analysts said in a note.
Further support for prices came from Iran's statement that blamed the United States for a pause in nuclear talks, which could mean a delay in a return of Iranian barrels to the market.
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Edmund Blair) ((Jessica.Jaganathan@thomsonreuters.com; +65 6870 3822; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com; Twitter: https://twitter.com/j3ssi3))