Oil recovers on US crude storage draw, rise in China imports

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By Paul Carsten and Deep Kaushik Vakil

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Thursday as falling inventories and higher Chinese imports supported expectations for demand growth in the world’s two largest crude-consuming nations.

futures for July were up 57 cents, or 0.7%, to $84.15 a barrel at 1131 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for June was up 56 cents, or 0.7%, to $79.55 per barrel.

“Oil markets were buoyed by a larger-than-expected draw in the U.S. inventory data. The improved China trade balance data added to the upside momentum,” said Tina Teng, an independent market analyst.

Crude inventories in the U.S., the world’s biggest oil user, fell last week by 1.4 million barrels to 459.5 million, according to the Energy Information Administration, more than analysts’ expectations for a 1.1 million-barrel draw.

Stockpiles fell as refinery activity increased by 307,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the period.

Shipments of crude in April to China, the world’s biggest oil importer, totalled 44.72 million metric tons, or about 10.88 million bpd, customs data released on Thursday showed. That was up 5.45% from a year earlier.

“The impressive recovery (in oil prices) was also helped by increasingly slim hopes of an Israel-Hamas ceasefire,” said oil broker PVM’s Tamas Varga.

Hamas said on Wednesday it was unwilling to make more concessions to Israel in negotiations over a ceasefire for Gaza, although talks were still under way in Cairo.

Just a few hours before Hamas’ statement, the U.S. said the two sides were not far apart.

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“While there may be some short-term relief for oil prices, it may be difficult to return to April’s high above the $90 per barrel level, where geopolitical tensions were at its peak,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG.