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Oil Settles Higher on Stronger Demand Outlook as U.S Inventories Fall

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Oil prices settled higher on Wednesday as a drop in U.S. crude stockpiles reinforced expectations of improving demand ahead of the peak summer driving season, offsetting worries that a possible return of Iranian supply would cause a glut.

Brent settled up 22 cents, or 0.3, to 68.87 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate WTI crude settled up 14 cents, or 0.2, at 66.21 a barrel.

Both benchmarks pared losses after government data showed U.S. crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub fell last week to the lowest since March 2020. Refiners ramped up utilization rates to prepandemic levels.

Gasoline product supplied rose to 9.5 million barrels per day, a proxy for demand, while distillate demand was also higher. Gasoline consumption generally rises beginning around U.S. Memorial Day, which is May 31 this year, when people take to the roads.

Prices found some support from lifting of coronavirus curbs.

An urge to hit the roads in heading out on vacations that were precluded by the pandemic last year will be supporting the gasoline market, said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

But market players were also closely watching developments in IranianU.S. nuclear talks which could lead to lifting sanctions on Irans energy industry and releasing Iranian oil on the market.

Prices should remain supported over the summer with the only thing keeping oil from price increases being the potential return of Iranian oil, said Andy…

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