Oil steadied after earlier declines on Thursday fuelled by fresh travel curbs to prevent new coronavirus outbreaks and delays to vaccine rollouts.
Brent crude futures were up 2 cents to 55.83 a barrel by 1039 GMT, having hit a session low of 55.31.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate WTI crude futures fell 8 cents, or 0.2, to 52.77 a barrel, after falling to a 52.22 earlier.
Oil prices were supported by data on Wednesday showing a huge 10 million barrel decline in U.S. crude inventories last week, which analysts said was due to a pick up in U.S. crude exports and a drop in imports.
But attention is returning to demand as contagious variants drive a rise in coronavirus infections and a slower rollout of vaccines in Europe and travel curbs in China are expected to limit fuel consumption.
Any sort of demandrelated optimism remains on pause amid the continued rise of new COVID19 cases across key demand centres and restricted mobility and public activity, consultants JBC Energy said.
Stricter vaccine checks by the European Union and delivery holdups from AstraZeneca and Pfizer have slowed the rollout of shots.
Adding to the bearishness over demand, China, the worlds secondlargest oil consumer, faces a surge in coronavirus cases and seeking to limit travel as it heads into what is normally the busiest travel season of the year, the Lunar New Year holiday.
The Chinese Ministry of Transport has forecast the number of trips that will be taken will be up 15 from last year, when…