But experts continue to be swayed by grim Covid news from Asia, U.S.: File Image/Pixabay
Crude traders who for the past week have worried that rising Covid infections will ruin demand despite abundant evidence to the contrary responded favourably on Thursday to news of declining unemployment rates - and as a result, oil prices enjoyed a modest rebound.
After it was learned that the number of Americans filing for new unemployment benefits declined further last week and layoffs dropped to their lowest level in just more than 21 years in July, Brent rose by 14 cents to $70.52 per barrel by 0132 GMT, while West Texas Intermediate increased by 18 cents to $68.33 per barrel.
Plus, the so-called gasoline crack, a rough gauge of the margin for refining crude into the motor fuel, traded at at a high not seen since last April.
Spencer Vosko, Black Diamond Commodities
We are seeing buyers return to the market
Spencer Vosko, director for crude oil at Black Diamond Commodities, said, "We are seeing buyers return to the market because of bullish macro market sentiments like the rise in equities."
Yousef Gamal El-Din, commodities reporter for Bloomberg television, said that while the rise of the Delta variant in China and corresponding lockdowns have already lessened traffic movement in some areas by 30 percent, many analysts including Bloomberg Intelligence regards this as "a hiccup" to what is an ongoing return to normality - and that a global oil shortage is still expected later this year.
Indeed, Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a note that it expects Brent to rise to $85 per barrel by the fourth quarter as oil demand outpaces supply growth.
Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday was reported to have become the second biggest oil supplier to the U.S. outside of Canada: government data showed that U.S. imports of crude and refined petroleum products from its former Cold War adversary surged 23 percent in May to 844,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the prior month.
By comparison, Mexico was edged out of second place with shipments rising by less than 3 percent; Russia's gains were said to be due to it producing ample supplies of semi-refined oils such as Mazut 100, ideal for American refineries accustomed to processing thick, sludgy crude from other countries.