Oil Extends Gains as China Signals Further Easing of Covid Rules

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(Bloomberg) — Oil rose for a second day on signs of further easing of China’s strict Covid-19 restrictions and as a key US pipeline remained shut.

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West Texas Intermediate rose toward $74 a barrel after closing 3% higher on Monday, the first gain in seven sessions. China’s ambassador to the US said the nation will continue relaxing its curbs and will welcome more international travelers soon, lifting demand hopes in the world’s top oil importer.

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China is rapidly dismantling its Covid Zero policy, although a surge in cases has raised some concerns about energy consumption over winter. Economists are also expecting China to loosen fiscal and monetary policy to bolster growth.

Crude is still on track for its first back-to-back quarterly decline since mid-2019 on concerns about the global economic outlook, with thin liquidity in the oil market exacerbating price swings. Investors will be watching a reading on US consumer prices later Tuesday for clues on the path of monetary policy.

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TC Energy Corp. is yet to submit a restart plan needed to resume operation of the Keystone pipeline following an oil spill. The conduit has now leaked more crude than any other pipeline on US land in the past 12 years. 

Time spreads continue to signal ample near-term supply, with the prompt spread for WTI and Brent holding in contango. The gap between the two nearest contracts for the global benchmark was 31 cents a barrel in contango, compared with $1.58 a barrel in backwardation about a month earlier.

Freezing conditions will remain across Northern Europe through the week, placing a heavy strain on power grids and adding to the demand outlook for fuels. The UK had asked for two standby coal-fired units to run on Monday before canceling the request amid signs of relief from winter weather.

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