Brent crude rises above $50 per barrel for first time since March

Oil prices continue to strengthen even after reported spike in US oil inventories

Brent's rise above $50 per barrel has been attribute to higher anticipated demand as countries quickly roll out Covid-19 vaccines. AP
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Oil prices climbed more than 4 per cent on Thursday, with Brent surging above $50 a barrel for the first time since early March, fuelled by hopes of a faster demand recovery as countries start to roll out Covid-19 vaccines.

The bullish sentiment offset a large increase in US crude inventories that showed there was still ample supply available.

Britain began vaccinations this week and the United States could start inoculations as soon as this weekend. Canada on Wednesday approved its first vaccine and said initial shots would be delivered starting next week.

Brent crude rose $2.05, or 4.2 per cent, to $50.91 a barrel by 7.51pm UAE time, rising for a third day. US West Texas Intermediate crude rose $2.03, or 4.5 per cent, to $47.55 a barrel.

Oil gained even after Wednesday's weekly report on US oil inventories showed a massive, 15.2 million barrel rise in crude stocks. Analysts had expected a 1.4 million barrel drop.

"It is not every day that the market ignores weekly builds of U.S. crude inventories," said Bjornar Tonhaugen, Rystad Energy's head of oil markets. "Fast-tracking vaccinations is raising hopes that oil demand will benefit quicker and the North American markets are major consumers."

Concern over an attack on an Iraqi oilfield also lent support. Two wells at a small field were set ablaze by explosives on Wednesday, but overall production from the field was not affected.

Oil has recovered from historic lows reached in April when the pandemic hammered demand, helped by a record supply-cut deal by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies.

OPEC+ will further ease its supply restrictions in January by adding an extra 500,000 barrels per day although the easing is more gradual than previously agreed, to provide additional support to the market.