MOSCOW (MRC) -- Oil prices were steady on Thursday near two-month highs, with Brent crude trading near USD85 a barrel, buoyed by expectations that a strong economic recovery will boost demand, but rising US inventories and high inflation capped gains, reported Reuters.
Brent crude futures rose 26 cents, or 0.3%, to USD84.93 a barrel, by 1445 GMT.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 8 cents, or 0.1, to USD82.72 a barrel.
Oil prices rallied more than 50% in 2021 and some analysts expect this trend to continue this year, forecasting that a lack of production capacity and limited investment could lift crude to USD90 or even above USD100 a barrel.
"The main factors driving prices up are ... the generally positive market sentiment as Omicron concerns abate and the expectation of continued dynamic economic development," Commerzbank said.
Cold weather in North America also supported prices.
Rising US fuel inventories last week and high inflation in the world's biggest economy weighed, however.
Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday showed fuel demand has taken a hit from Omicron, with gasoline stockpiles increasing by 8 million barrels in the week to Jan. 7, compared with analyst expectations for a 2.4 million-barrel rise.
"In reality, the weekly EIA report was less bullish than the headline number, as total crude oil inventories fell 4.8 million barrels but were more than offset by a stock build across refined products," Citi said in a note.
The drop in crude inventories "might have been related to end-of-year tax issues on oil stocks onshore in Texas and Louisiana", the bank added.
As MRC informed before, US commercial crude stocks fell 3.48 million barrels to 413.96 million barrels in the week ended Sept. 17, to more than 8% below the five-year average, Energy Information Administration data showed. Stocks were last lower Oct. 5, 2018.
We remind that in late August, 2021, US crude stocks dropped sharply while petroleum products supplied by refiners hit an all-time record despite the rise in coronavirus cases nationwide, the Energy Information Administration said. Crude inventories fell by 7.2 million barrels in the week to Aug. 27 to 425.4 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 3.1 million-barrel drop. Product supplied by refineries, a measure of demand, rose to 22.8 million barrels per day in the most recent week. That's a one-week record, and signals strength in consumption for diesel, gasoline and other fuels by consumers and exporters.
We also remind that US crude oil production was expected to fall by 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2021 to 11.12 million bpd, EIA said in a monthly report earlier last year, a smaller decline than its previous forecast for a drop of 210,000 bpd.