US oil rose for a fifth day on Thursday as a surprise drop in crude inventories extended a rally driven by hopes that vaccines would end the coronavirus pandemic and revive fuel demand.
Brent was up by 20 cents, or 0.4%, at $48.81 a barrel, after rising around 1.6% in the previous session. West Texas Intermediate crude was up by 14 cents, or 0.3%, at $45.85, having gained 1.8% on Wednesday.
Both benchmarks have risen about 9% this week, getting a boost after AstraZeneca said on Monday its Covid-19 vaccine could be up to 90% effective, adding to the potential armoury to end the worst pandemic in a century.
US oil stockpiles fell 754,000 barrels last week, data showed, while analysts in a Reuters poll had predicted a 127,000-barrel rise. Stockpiles at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point for WTI, fell 1.7 million barrels.
But gasoline demand for the week fell by 128,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 8.13 million bpd, the lowest since June.
"With new US virus cases still at very high levels, we think that it probably won't be until next year – once vaccines can have a material impact – that demand recovers to more normal levels," Capital Economics said in a note.
US President-elect Joe Biden has urged people to forgo big family gatherings, wear protective masks and maintain social distancing for the Thanksgiving holiday in the face of the surging coronavirus pandemic. But Americans are defying pleas from officials to stay home.
The United States has recorded 2.3 million new infections in the past two weeks.