Oil prices increased on Friday, as rising coronavirus cases were overshadowed by optimistic oil demand outlooks and positive economic data from the US and China.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $67.13 per barrel at 0706 GMT for a 0.28% increase after closing Wednesday at $66.94 a barrel.

American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $63.62 per barrel at the same time for a 0.25% increase after it ended the previous session at $63.46 a barrel.

Oil markets are still under demand pressure as coronavirus cases continue to infect millions of people around the world.

India recorded over 200,000 coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time since the start of the pandemic, taking the country’s tally to over 14 million, data from Johns Hopkins University showed.

However, strong economic data, signaling recovery signs of the economies of the US, the world’s largest oil consumer, and China, the world’s largest oil importer, supported oil prices.

US jobless claims sank to their lowest since March 2020 and retail sales climbed to their highest level since last May, creating optimism for investors.

According to the US Commerce Department, retail sales in the country increased 9.8% in March compared to the previous month, exceeding expectations of a 6.1% rise.

The number of Americans filing first-time unemployment claims fell by 193,000 to 576,000 last week, its lowest level since March 14, 2020, according to the US Labor Department.

While China’s imports and exports recorded a strong rebound in March, research by the country’s state oil and gas group, China National Petroleum Company, showed that China’s 2021 net crude oil imports are forecast to grow year-on-year by 3.4% to about 559 million tonnes.

Although the country’s economy has been badly hit by the pandemic, data showed that China’s economy expanded 18.3% in the first three months of 2021, its fastest year-on-year rate for any quarter on record.

-Positive demand forecasts

The International Energy Agency (IEA) updated its oil demand estimates for 2021 in its monthly oil report on Wednesday, just one day after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) raised its global oil demand forecast.

Based on stronger economic forecasts and stable, timely fiscal indicators, the agency predicts that global oil demand will rise by 5.7 million bpd, or 6.3%, to an average of 96.7 million bpd this year.

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.