Vaccine programs boost oil higher

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    TOKYO- Oil prices edged higher on Monday after a weak start, holding on to the past three months of gains, although patchy coronavirus vaccine rollouts, new infections and the discovery of new variants are keeping a lid on prices.

    Brent crude futures were up 10 cents at $55.14 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) gained 1 cents to $52.21. Both benchmarks gained nearly 8 percent in January.

    Oil prices have been boosted by vaccination programs getting underway in hard-hit countries and output cuts by major producers like Saudi Arabia. But euphoria over a possible end to the pandemic has been undermined by the slow pace of vaccinations and the rise of new variants of the coronavirus.

    Still, with more vaccines proving successful in trials and infections falling in some areas, demand for oil and fuels is likely to pick up as more of the world’s population gets inoculated against COVID-19.