Oil prices have steadied after industry data showed a drop in crude stocks in the US, but increasing Covid-19 infections put a cap on price gains.

Brent crude prices were down $0.04 to $56.54 a barrel by 1032 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was up $0.03 to $53.24, reported Reuters.

Commerzbank was quoted by the news agency as saying: “The optimistic mood among investors, coupled with positive signs on the supply and demand sides, is … lending support.”

Crude inventories in the US declined by 5.8 million barrels last week to around 484.5 million barrels, according to the data of the American Petroleum Institute.

Inventory data by the Energy Information Administration is expected later today.

Saudi Arabia reduced crude supplies for February loading for at least three buyers in Asia but is meeting the requirements of at least four others.

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However, increasing Covid-19 deaths in Europe and the US and measures to contain the spread of the new strains have weighed on prices.

China saw its biggest daily increase in Covid-19 cases in more than five months, despite four cities being placed under lockdown.