Oil prices have edged up after data released by industry group American Petroleum Institute (API), showing an unexpected rise in the US crude inventories.

Prices were also supported on hopes that a vaccine against Covid-19 will increase fuel demand.

Brent crude futures rose by $0.44 to reach $48.30 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up by $0.33 to reach $45.24, Reuters reported.

Both the Brent and the WTI benchmarks rose to the highest level traded since early March. The two benchmarks gained around 9% in the past four days.

For the week ended 20 November, the API data showed a rise in the US crude stockpiles by 3.8 million barrels to around 490 million barrels.

OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley was quoted by Reuters as stating: “With an orderly Presidential transition in sight, vaccine boosters and expectations that OPEC+ will extend production cuts next week, oil markets completely ignored the unexpected 3.8 million-barrel climb in API US crude inventories.”

On 23 November, British drug-making firm AstraZeneca said that its vaccine could be more than 90% effective under a single dosing regimen. It was proven to be 70% effective in pivotal trials.

The company’s drug candidate is the world’s ‘third new weapon’ against the novel coronavirus, which the company claims is cheaper to make and easier to distribute.

However, any effective vaccine is ‘not likely to be ready for mass use’ in the coming months. This means that the virus-related lockdown measures and travel bans will continue through next year.

It is likely that Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and allies, including Russia, together known as OPEC+, will continue output cuts through next year to support prices amid a second wave of the virus.

OPEC+ will discuss its ‘output policy’ during the ministers meet on 30 November and 1 December.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump allowed officials to proceed with a transition to President-elect candidate Joe Biden.

Biden will take over access to resources in January next year.