Oil prices rose on Thursday as a more-than-expected decline in US crude oil inventories combined with the easing of restrictions in the country signal an oil demand rebound.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $69.09 per barrel at 0649 GMT for a 0.18% increase after closing Thursday at $68.96 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $66.12 per barrel at the same time for a 0.74% rise after it ended the previous session at $65.63 a barrel.
Oil prices found support from the narrowing gap between demand and supply with the greater-than-expected fall in US crude stocks last week, signaling a crude demand rebound in the US, the world's largest oil consumer. The easing of coronavirus restrictions by major oil-consuming countries also helped.
US commercial crude oil inventories fell by 8 million barrels, or 1.6%, to 485.1 million barrels, relative to the market expectation of a fall of 2.2 million barrels, according to data released by the country's Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.
OPEC+ producing countries began to bring additional supply to the market from the beginning of May, after expressing confidence in an oil demand recovery in the second half of the year.
The group’s positive sentiments coincided with the gradual easing of pandemic mitigation measures in the US and Europe, although the worrisome increase in Asian countries, especially in India, continues to curb demand.
Several US states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced either partial or complete lifting of restrictions, while European countries are also experiencing the gradual removal of restrictions.
France is lifting internal travel restrictions while many countries, including Germany, Italy, and Denmark, are set to ease restrictions for those fully vaccinated. In Ireland, restrictions will be lifted gradually up to June 7 and the UK expects Covid restrictions to be further eased on May 17.
Adding more to the bullish oil prices, militants attacked two oil wells in the Bai Hassan oilfield in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk province on Wednesday.
Some security personnel were killed and injured in the bombing, however, the attack did not affect oil output.
By Sibel Morrow