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Oil prices hit nine-month high after inventory draw


SINGAPORE/LONDON (Reuters) – Oil climbed to a nine-month high on Thursday after government data showed a fall in U.S. crude stockpiles last week, while progress towards a U.S. fiscal stimulus deal and strong Asian demand also buoyed prices.

The U.S. dollar set a 2-1/2 year low against major rivals on Thursday which also helped oil because crude priced in the greenback becomes cheaper for buyers holding other currencies.

Brent crude futures were up 22 cents at $51.30 a barrel by 1110 GMT, having traded as high as $51.90.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose by 28 cents to $48.10 a barrel, having traded as high as $48.59. Both benchmarks hit their highest since early March.

“All the headlines have been bullish for oil prices,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

“U.S. stockpiles posted a larger-than-expected draw, three of India’s refiners are operating almost at 100% capacity, indicating crude demand remains strong, and it seems the U.S. will continue to deliver more monetary and fiscal stimulus, sending the dollar lower and most commodities higher.”

U.S. crude inventories fell by 3.1 million barrels in the week to Dec. 11, the Energy Information Administration said, far more than analysts’ expectations of a 1.9-million-barrel drop.

Also boosting oil prices, U.S. lawmakers edged closer to agreement on a $900 billion virus-relief spending package on Wednesday.

The United States on Thursday expanded its campaign to deliver COVID-19 vaccine shots.

“It seems to be a much better festive season than most bullish traders could expect for. But whether oil prices can remain as high and keep these gains is still questionable amid the demand destruction lockdowns are causing,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen at Rystad Energy.



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