Oil prices jump as US House passes huge stimulus bill

SINGAPORE, March 1 (Reuters): Oil prices rebounded more than $1 on Monday after the US House of Representatives passed a huge stimulus package, although a slowdown in China's February factory activity growth capped gains.

Brent crude futures for May rose $1.24, or 1.9%, to US$65.66 per barrel by 0718 GMT. The April contract expired on Friday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures jumped $1.18, or 1.9%, to $62.68 a barrel.

Front-month prices for both contracts touched 13-month highs last week, slipping back on Friday along with wider financial markets following a bond rout amid inflation fears.

"Oil prices are recovering this morning in line with most risk assets on the back of the U.S. stimulus bill passing the House," Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi, wrote in a note on Monday.

The U.S. House passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package early on Saturday, lifting investors' risk appetite and Asian stock markets. The package will now move to the U.S. Senate for further deliberation.

The approval of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 shot also buoyed the economic outlook.

Manufacturing data from top Asian oil importers were mixed, however, as China's factory activity growth slipped to a nine-month low in February, while manufacturing in Japan expanded the fastest in more than two years.

Crude supplies going into top importer China are expected to ease in the second quarter as the oil price rally cooled demand. Preliminary data also showed that South Korea's February imports were down 14.7% from a year earlier.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, will meet on Thursday and could discuss allowing as much as 1.5 million barrels per day of crude back in the market.

"We think if the combined (OPEC+) increase does not exceed 500,000 bpd, that will be bullish for prices," analysts at Singapore's OCBC bank said.

ING analysts said OPEC+ will need to be careful to avoid surprising traders by releasig too much of supplies back into the markets.

"There is a large amount of speculative money in oil at the moment, so they will want to avoid any action that will see them running for the exit," they said.

Separately, Iran on Sunday dismissed opening talks with the United States and the European Union to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, insisting Washington must first lift the unilateral sanctions that have sharply reduced Iranian oil exports. - Reuters
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