Oil prices rise on coronavirus vaccine optimism, US fiscal stimulus

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Oil prices rose on Monday, supported by optimism about COVID-19 vaccinations, a US stimulus package and growing factory activity in Europe despite coronavirus restrictions.

Brent crude was up 34 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $64.76 a barrel by 1448 GMT, and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $61.63 a barrel.

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Both contracts finished February 18 percent higher.

“The three major supportive factors are the prevalent vaccine rollouts, the optimism about economic growth and the view that the oil balance will get tighter as a result of the first two points,” PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga said.

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Support also came from a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by the US House of Representatives on Saturday.

If approved by the Senate, the stimulus package would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households and small businesses, which will have a direct impact on energy demand.

The approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 shot also buoyed the economic outlook.

Manufacturing data from around the world were mixed.

China’s factory activity growth slipped to a nine-month low in February but German activity hit its highest level in more than three years and Euro zone factory activity raced along, driven by rising demand.

OPEC oil output fell in February as a voluntary cut by Saudi Arabia added to agreed reductions under a pact with allies, a Reuters survey found, ending a run of seven consecutive monthly increases.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, meet on Thursday and could discuss allowing as much as 1.5 million barrels per day of crude back into the market.

ING analysts said OPEC+ needs to avoid surprising traders by releasing too much supply.

“There is a large amount of speculative money in oil at the moment, so they will want to avoid any action that will see (those investors) running for the exit,” the analysts said.

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