Oil prices rose on Wednesday on a larger-than-expected drop in US crude oil inventories, while demand concerns sparked by the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus limit further upward movements.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $74.41 per barrel at 0715 GMT for a 0.17% increase after closing Tuesday at $74.28 a barrel.

American benchmark West Texas Intermediate was at $73.40 per barrel at the same time for a 0.58% increase after it ended the previous session at $72.98 a barrel.

Late Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute announced its estimate of a fall of 8.1 million barrels in US crude oil inventories relative to the market expectation of a draw of 4.5 million barrels.

The decline in crude oil stocks in the US bolstered hopes of increasing demand in the country and relieved investor fears over falling demand to positively support prices.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release official oil stock figures later on Wednesday. Oil prices are projected to rise further if the EIA reports a drop in stocks.

Investors have been focused on the upcoming meeting on Thursday of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producing countries, known as OPEC+, where the production quota after July will be discussed.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo warned during the 53rd Joint Technical Committee (JTC) meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC producers over uncertainties about the COVID-19 Delta variant which he said reached more than 80 countries and resulted in rising cases and renewed restrictions.

Nonetheless, he also expressed optimism about “significantly improved oil market conditions and prospects for future growth” led by the overall brighter picture in relation to the pandemic recovery efforts.

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