Oil prices hit a nine-month high early on Thursday after U.S. government data showed that crude stockpiles fell last week and on optimism over a coronavirus relief package in the United States.
Brent crude futures rose by 28 cents, or 0.6%, to $51.36 a barrel at 0116 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose by 27 cents, or 0.6%, to $48.09 a barrel. Both benchmarks hit their highest since early March.
U.S. crude inventories fell by 3.1 million barrels in the week to Dec. 11, the Energy Information Administration said. This was more than analysts’ expectations of a 1.9-million-barrel drop, after stockpiles surged in last week’s data.
“U.S. production also fell… the first time since late October,” ANZ analysts said in a note on Thursday.
Refinery crude runs fell by 253,000 barrels per day in the past week, EIA said. Refinery utilisation rates fell by 0.8 percentage point in the week.
Also boosting oil prices, the Fed said on Wednesday it would stick with its policy of low interest rates while legislators moved closer to agreeing on an additional $900 billion of COVID-19 aid, including $600 to $700 stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits.
The United States on Thursday also expanded its campaign to deliver COVID-19 vaccine shots into the arms of doctors and nurses on the frontlines of a pandemic that has killed more than 2,500 Americans a day, which also supported oil prices.