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Oil firms as demand hopes outweigh rise of COVID-19 variant

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Crude oil storage tanks are seen in an aerial photograph at the Cushing oil hub
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By Noah Browning

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices rose on Tuesday as broad hopes for a demand recovery persisted despite new outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus prompting fresh mobility curbs worldwide.

Brent crude futures were up 50 cents, or 0.7%, at $75.18 a barrel by 1400 GMT, having slumped by 2% on Monday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 55 cents, or 0.8%, to $73.46 after a 1.5% retreat on Monday.

"From a global perspective, there are seemingly growing concerns over the increase in the COVID-19 Delta variant," said StoneX analyst Kevin Solomon.

"The market has grown relatively immune to COVID-19 developments, but if lockdowns occur in larger demand centres in Asia, we may see the market’s nonchalance abate."

Spain and Portugal, favourite summer holiday destinations for Europeans, imposed new restrictions on unvaccinated Britons on Monday, while Australians also faced tighter curbs owing to flare-ups of the virus across the country.

However, the market still expects the rollout of vaccination programmes to brighten the demand outlook, analysts said.

"The narrative of the past few months has not changed: the war against the virus is being gradually won, the global economy and oil demand are recovering," said PVM Oil analyst Tamas Varga.

"Oil supply is being effectively managed. Therefore dips are probably viewed by ardent bulls as attractive buying opportunities."

The virus flare-up comes as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russia and allies, together known as OPEC+, are set to meet on July 1 to discuss easing their supply curbs.

OPEC's demand forecasts show that in the fourth quarter global oil supply will fall short of demand by 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd), giving the producers some room to agree to add output.

Analysts expect OPEC+ to step up supply in August because the market has tightened on strong growth in fuel demand in the United States and China, the world's two biggest oil consumers.

Investors will be looking to the latest U.S. inventory data for cues on the demand outlook. Crude stocks are likely to have extended their fall for a sixth straight week while gasoline stocks are also expected to have declined, a preliminary Reuters poll showed.

(Additional reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by David Evans and David Goodman)

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