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Oil hits 11-month highs on Saudi cuts, shrugs off U.S. turmoil

Laura Sanicola
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A worker collects a crude oil sample at an oil well operated by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA in Morichal

By Laura Sanicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices settled higher on Thursday, hitting 11-month peaks, as markets remained focused on Saudi Arabia's unexpected pledge to deepen its oil cuts and firmer equities, shrugging off political turmoil in the United States.

Brent crude settled up 8 cents to $54.38 a barrel after touching $54.90, a high not seen since before the first COVID-19 lockdowns in the West.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) settled up 20 cents to $50.83, after hitting a session high at $51.28.

On Wednesday, crude futures prices briefly dipped when President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol after he urged them to protest Congress's certification of his election loss.

Oil prices have been supported this week by a pledge by Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, to cut output by an additional 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in February and March.

"By next month, this bull market could re-establish into higher levels mainly with the benefit of Saudi Arabia’s unexpected voluntary 1 million bpd production cut," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

Seven North Sea crude cargoes were bought and sold in the trading window operated by Platts on Thursday, a record amount that trade sources say may reflect tighter supply after the surprise cut.

"Saudi Arabia ...intimately knows the relationship between the oil price and the global inventory levels. Lower inventories equal higher prices," SEB chief commodity analyst Bjarne Schieldrop said.

Global equities were higher as investors believe Democratic U.S. President-elect Joe Biden would be empowered to spend more freely following victories by two Democrats in Senate races in Georgia that gave the party control of both chambers of U.S. Congress. [nL1N2JI1A9]

"Expected stimulus measures under a Biden administration that will likely include significant infrastructure investment represents a supportive consideration capable of boosting gasoline and diesel demand," Ritterbusch said.

(Additional reporting by Noah Browning and Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Kirsten Donovan and Marguerita Choy and Sonya Hepinstall)