OIL PRICE: BELOW $73
REUTERS - AUGUST 4, 2021 - Oil prices edged higher on Wednesday, supported by a fall in U.S. inventories and Mideast geopolitical tensions, but the increasing spread of the coronavirus Delta variant in top consuming countries capped gains.
Brent crude oil futures were up 33 cents, or 0.5%, to $72.74 a barrel by 0815 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 16 cents, or 0.2%, to $70.72 a barrel.
"[Oil] bulls have drawn support from U.S. inventory dynamics, with commercial stocks falling to their lowest since January 2020 and indications that the tightening is set to continue," oil brokerage PVM said.
U.S. crude inventories fell by 879,000 barrels for the week ended July 30, according to two market sources, citing American Petroleum Institute figures.
Gasoline inventories fell by 5.8 million barrels and distillate stocks fell by 717,000 barrels, the data showed, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Tensions in the Mideast Gulf also lent prices some support.
On Tuesday, three maritime security sources clamed Iranian-backed forces seized an oil product tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, though Iran denied the reports.
This is the second attack on a tanker since Friday in the region, which includes the Strait of Hormuz. The UK and the U.S. are also blaming Iran for the earlier incident, in which drones crashed into the vessel and killed two sailors.
Both futures contracts fell on Tuesday to their lowest since July 21 before regaining some ground by the close, weighed down by the virus spread.
"Worries continue to grow over the spread of the Delta variant in China, which has weighed heavily on oil prices in recent days," bank ING said.
The United States and China, the world's two biggest oil consumers, are grappling with rapidly spreading outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant that analysts fear will limit fuel demand at a time when it traditionally rises in both countries.
In China, the spread of the variant from the coast to inland cities has prompted authorities to impose strict measures to bring the outbreak under control.