Oil gains on hopes that easing of coronavirus curbs will trigger demand boost

FILE PHOTO: Pump jacks operate at sunset in Midland, Texas, U.S., February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Friday as more countries began easing lockdowns set in place to stop the coronavirus spreading, giving hope that demand for fuels will pick up after the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

Brent crude LCOc1 was up 47 cents, or 1.5%, at $29.33 a barrel by 0121 GMT, having fallen nearly 1% on Thursday.

U.S. oil CLc1 gained 48 cents, or 1.5%, to $24.03 a barrel, after a decline of nearly 2% in the previous session.

Both contracts are heading for a second week of gains after the depths plumbed in April, when U.S. oil crashed below zero. But crude is still being pumped into storage tanks on land and tankers at sea, raising the prospect that gains prompted by stronger demand will be capped.

“Even with the early signs that demand is beginning to stabilise, inventory builds are likely to continue for some time, and storage capacity (usage) continues to creep up,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp.

U.S. crude inventories at the Cushing storage hub in Oklahoma increased by around 407,000 barrels in the week through May 5, traders said on Thursday, citing Genscape data.

Meanwhile Australia is set to be the latest country to begin easing restrictions on social contact and movement as the country’s infections from the virus slow to a trickle. The government will loosen curbs in stages over four weeks, sources told Reuters.

France, parts of the United States including Michigan and other countries are also planning to ease the restrictions instituted to stop the spread of the world’s worst health crisis in a century.

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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