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Crude oil futures rise on weaker dollar, pandemic concerns persist

Singapore — 0246 GMT: Crude oil futures were higher during the mid-morning trade in Asia April 20 as the market received some tailwind from a weakening dollar, even as pandemic concerns continued to limit upside in the market.

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At 10:46 am Singapore time (0246 GMT), the ICE Brent June contract was up 49 cents/b (0.73%) from the April 19 settle at $67.54/b, while the May NYMEX light sweet crude contract was 31 cents/b (0.49%) higher at $63.69/b.

Oil prices were supported by a weakening US dollar, which boosts demand for dollar-denominated assets from buyers holding foreign currencies. At 10:38 am, the June contract for ICE Dollar Index trading at 91.010, down 0.583% from the previous settle.

There was some optimism over an improving pandemic outlook in Europe, but this was countered by the deteriorating situation in India, which could dent domestic oil and energy demand. India reported a record 273,802 COVID-19 cases on April 18, latest data from John Hopkins University showed.

"The energy market is paying close attention to India as the current surge is forcing refiners to shut down and [has raised] concerns over potentially new variants," Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a April 20 note.

On the supply side, Arabian Gulf Oil Co., or Agaco, a subsidiary of the Libyan state-owned National Oil Corp., has halted pumping at its oil fields due to outstanding payments for operations by the Libyan government since September, S&P Global Platts reported.

Agaco operates eight oil fields with a total capacity of 250,000 b/d, and the closures hamper NOC's aim of raising output to 1.45 million b/d by year end from 1.28 million b/d in March.

In the US, a rise in refinery runs was forecast to have driven down US commercial crude stocks by 4.4 million barrels to 488 million barrels in the week ended April 16, according to analysts surveyed by Platts. The analysts forecast gasoline inventories rose by 800,000 barrels in the week, while distillate inventories fell by 1.3 million barrels.

The analysts were surveyed ahead of the release of weekly inventory data by the American Petroleum Institute and the Energy Information Administration later April 20 and April 21, respectively.