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Oil prices have increased by over 3% in response to reports of a drug breakthrough for the treatment of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

China’s Changjiang Daily reported that a Zhejiang University research team led by Professor Li Lanjuan found that the drugs Abidol and Darunavir were effective against the virus in vitro cell experiments.

According to Reuters, Brent crude oil futures were up to $55.32 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose to $50.80 a barrel.

The OPEC+ alliance has proposed further supply cuts and moved a planned policy meeting forward to this month.

BNP Paribas analyst Harry Tchilinguirian said: “The (Chinese) economy will be weakened for some time to come as quarantines, social distancing and travel restrictions remain in place.

“But as financial markets are anticipatory, one can see how favourable news in relation to potential medical solutions, or indications that we have reached a turning point in the progress of the virus outbreak, are likely to be interpreted positively.”

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), US crude stockpiles increased by 4.2 million barrels. They now stand at 432.9 million barrels, as of the week ending 31 January.

Meanwhile, investors await data from Energy Information Administration (EIA).

OANDA analyst Edward Moya said: “This is a critical time for oil prices and even if we see OPEC+ deliver deeper production cuts, an extended shutdown of China will destroy demand for crude’s top importer.”

The death toll from the virus has reached 492, including the one reported in the Philippines. The number of cases of infection has increased to 24,527 as of the end of 4 February. This is an increase of 65 deaths in China from the day before.