Oil prices were up on Thursday over a more-than-expected decline in US crude oil inventories and on the UK’s approval of a second COVID-19 vaccine, both of which engendered hope for an economic recovery in 2021.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $51.66 per barrel at 0641 GMT for a 0.06% rise after closing Wednesday at $51.63 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $48.41 per barrel at the same time for a 0.02% increase after it ended the previous session at $48.40 a barrel.
A decline in US crude oil inventories last week is driving an upward oil price trend and signaling a rebound in crude demand in the US, the world's largest oil consumer.
Commercial crude oil inventories in the US dropped by 6.1 million barrels last week, relative to the market expectation of a 2.1 million-barrel draw.
Further buoying bullish oil prices, the UK's drug regulator approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for UK use.
Starting on Thursday, the National Health Service “will prioritize giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups,” said a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care.
The UK had rolled out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in early December.
However, further price increases were limited when US President Donald Trump signed the much-expected US relief package although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the higher COVID stimulus payments to most Americans that Trump sought, which would have seen more than a triple-fold rise in aid checks to $2,000 from the current $600.
By Sibel Morrow