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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Crude oil is trading at its highest levels in eight months and prices may be poised to escape the rather narrow band where they've been stuck since June after coming back from their spring depths.

Why it matters: The gains this week don't just matter for the beleaguered industry's future — they're a sign that traders see the promise of COVID-19 vaccines allowing life to begin returning to the before times.

  • There's also the expectation that OPEC+, at its meeting later this month, will delay plans to lessen their joint production cuts at year-end.

By the numbers: Brent was trading around $48.23 and WTI $45.25 Wednesday morning.

What they're saying: "The energy sector is threatening to slam the door on Covid era struggle, and ride positive vaccine economics to the next level," Mizuho Securities USA analyst Robert Yawger writes in a note.

  • Rystad Energy's Bjornar Tonhaugen says, "The oil price comeback seems unstoppable since news of positive vaccine trials arrived and the rise has sidelined other short-term concerns, even lockdowns and increasing crude inventories."

Yes, but: For now the pandemic is raging, which isn't lost on OPEC and Russia.

  • HSBC analyst Gordon Gray, in a note this morning, says he sees "significant" demand improvement during 2021, but there's still lots of uncertainty.
  • "[U]ntil this demand outlook becomes much clearer we would expect OPEC+ to remain extremely cautious about unwinding its cuts too much," Gray writes.

The intrigue: While prices are on the upswing, the pandemic is nonetheless changing the outlook even beyond this year's crisis.

  • The Wall Street Journal, citing internal documents, reports that Exxon has "lowered its outlook on oil prices for much of the next decade."

Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Jan 4, 2021 - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

10 energy and climate issues to watch in 2021

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

From presidential aspirations to oil to corporate positioning, here’s what I’m watching this year.

The big picture: After the year that wasn’t, well, everything we thought it would be, 2021 will be a messy mix of the pandemic (still) and reviving all that it sidelined on all things, including energy and climate change.

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.