Crude oil prices hit nine-month highs on Thursday, fueled by a drop in US crude stocks and renewed hopes of a US coronavirus relief package.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $51.65 per barrel at 0638 GMT for a 1.12% decrease after closing Wednesday at $51.08 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $48.39 a barrel at the same time for a 1.19% decrease after ending the previous session at $47.82 per barrel.
The upward oil price trend mainly driven by a decline in US crude oil inventories last week signals a crude demand rebound in the US, the world's largest oil consumer.
According to data released by the country's Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday, US commercial crude oil inventories rose by 3.1 million barrels, or 0.6%, to 500.1 million barrels relative to the market expectation of a fall of 3.5 million barrels.
Further buoying bullish oil prices, US legislators agreed to break the $908 billion stimulus package into two different proposals, making it easier to negotiate a partial agreement needed to fund small companies, jobless benefits and the delivery of vaccines.
On the other hand, lingering demand fears continue to cap prices with the growing number of coronavirus cases, as countries impose tighter restrictions and lockdowns, including over the Christmas holiday.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University on Thursday, the number of cases worldwide has now reached over 74.2 million. The US, the world's largest oil-consuming country, still tops the number of cases above 16.9 million, while in India cases have reached over 9.9 million, and Brazil follows with over 7 million.
However, a vaccine rollout in the US has started and the country decided to expand its campaign to deliver COVID-19 vaccine shots for doctors and nurses.
By Sibel Morrow