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Oil prices on track for eight-week high on demand hopes

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Oil prices rose more than 1% on Wednesday, putting the contracts on track for their highest close in almost eight weeks, as U.S. crude exports plunged and on signs of a speedy economic recovery and upbeat forecasts for energy demand.

Brent futures rose 74 cents, or 1.1%, to $69.29 a barrel by 12:05 p.m. EDT (1605 GMT), while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 75 cents, or 1.2%, to $66.03.

That puts both benchmarks on track for their highest closes since March 11. Earlier in the session, WTI on track for its highest close since Oct. 29, 2018 and Brent for its highest close since May 28, 2019.

U.S. crude exports fell last week to around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd), their lowest since October 2018, while crude inventories declined 0.4 million barrels versus an expected 2.8 million-barrel draw, according to weekly government data. [EIA/S]

“The export (drop) is the bullish element keeping trade propped up,” Tony Headrick, energy market analyst at CHS Hedging, said, noting the crude stock “drawdown combined with the lack of exports is good sign.”

Traders noted one factor weighing on prices this afternoon was the U.S. inventory report also showed total oil products supplied fell 2.2 million bpd to 17.5 million bpd. That was their biggest weekly decline and the lowest weekly demand since January.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its monthly report that oil demand is already outstripping supply and the shortfall is expected to widen even if Iran boosts exports.

Similarly, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Tuesday stuck to a forecast for a strong recovery in world oil demand in 2021, with growth in China and the United States outweighing the impact of the coronavirus crisis in India.

Oil prices today are experiencing a lift on positive demand outlooks released by OPEC and IEA, which both came out with a similar consensus that oil demand will average 96.4 million bpd in 2021,” said Louise Dickson, oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

Oil also found support from positive economic data. Britain’s pandemic-battered economy grew more strongly than expected in March, while U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in nearly 12 years in April as booming demand amid a reopening economy pushed against supply constraints.

India’s coronavirus death toll crossed 250,000 in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began.

In the United States, fuel shortages worsened as the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest fuel pipeline network, entered its sixth day and gasoline stations from Florida to Virginia ran out of supply in some cities.

Colonial, which transports more than 2.5 million bpd, said it hopes to restart a large portion of the network by the end of the week.

The gasoline crack spread – a measure of refining profit margins – was on track for its highest close since hitting a record high on April 20, 2020 when WTI futures turned negative, according to Refinitiv data.

(Additional reporting by Laura Sanicola in New York, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London and Shu Zhang and Sonali Paul in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Mark Heinrich)

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Canadian retail sales slide in April, May as COVID-19 shutdown bites

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Canadian retail sales plunged in April and May, as shops and other businesses were shuttered amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Statistics Canada data showed on Wednesday.

Retail trade fell 5.7% in April, the sharpest decline in a year, missing analyst forecasts of a 5.0% drop. In a preliminary estimate, Statscan said May retail sales likely fell by 3.2% as store closures dragged on.

“April showers brought no May flowers for Canadian retailers this year,” Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a note.

Statscan said that 5.0% of retailers were closed at some point in April. The average length of the closure was one day, it said, citing respondent feedback.

Sales decreased in nine of the 11 subsectors, while core sales, which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicles, were down 7.6% in April.

Clothing and accessory store sales fell 28.6%, with sales at building material and garden equipment stores falling for the first time in nine months, by 10.4%.

“These results continue to suggest that the Bank of Canada is too optimistic on the growth outlook for the second quarter, even if there is a solid rebound occurring now in June,” Mendes said.

The central bank said in April that it expects Canada’s economy to grow 6.5% in 2021 and signaled interest rates could begin to rise in the second half of 2022.

The Canadian dollar held on to earlier gains after the data, trading up 0.3% at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto, editing by Alexander Smith)

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Economy

Canadian dollar notches a 6-day high

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The Canadian dollar strengthened for a third day against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, as oil prices rose and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reassured markets that the central bank is not rushing to hike rates.

Markets were rattled last week when the Fed shifted to more hawkish guidance. But Powell on Tuesday said the economic recovery required more time before any tapering of stimulus and higher borrowing costs are appropriate, helping Wall Street recoup last week’s decline.

Canada is a major producer of commodities, including oil, so its economy is highly geared to the economic cycle.

Brent crude rose above $75 a barrel, reaching its highest since late 2018, after an industry report on U.S. crude inventories reinforced views of a tightening market as travel picks up in Europe and North America.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents, after touching its strongest level since last Thursday at 1.2265.

The currency also gained ground on Monday and Tuesday, clawing back some of its decline from last week.

Canadian retail sales fell by 5.7% in April from March as provincial governments put in place restrictions to tackle a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada said. A flash estimate showed sales down 3.2% in May.

Still, the Bank of Canada expects consumer spending to lead a strong rebound in the domestic economy as vaccinations climb and containment measures ease.

Canadian government bond yields were mixed across a steeper curve, with the 10-year up nearly 1 basis point at 1.416%. Last Friday, it touched a 3-1/2-month low at 1.364%.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Economy

Toronto Stock Exchange higher at open as energy stocks gain

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Toronto Stock Exchange edged higher at open on Wednesday as heavyweight energy stocks advanced, while data showing a plunge in domestic retail sales in April and May capped the gains.

* At 9:30 a.m. ET (13:30 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 16.77 points, or 0.08%, at 20,217.42.

(Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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