14:20 GMT22 February 2020
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    NEW YORK (Sputnik) - Crude oil prices hit three-month highs on Thursday on the prospects of a US-China trade deal signing in January and some early tariff waivers granted by Beijing.

    New York-traded West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the US crude benchmark, settled up 33 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $61.18 per barrel.  It was the sixth straight day of higher settlements for WTI.

    The WTI earlier hit a three-month high of $66.78 earlier on Thursday after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said US-China Phase One trade deal will likely be signed in early January. Tariff waivers on six US chemical and oil products announced by the Chinese government also helped crude oil market sentiment.

    UK-traded Brent, the global oil benchmark, was also up 33 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $66.50 by 3:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. GMT).

    Brent earlier peaked at $66.78, its highest since 17 September.

    Oil prices are up sharply on the year, with WTI showing a gain of nearly 35 percent and Brent almost 24 percent, largely on plans for deeper production cuts by an alliance of world crude producers led by  Saudi Arabia and Russia.

    The rally has also been aided since last week by news that the United States and China could move towards ending their more than year-long trade war with an imminent phase one deal. China is the world’s largest oil importer and any trade it signs with the United States is expected to beneficial to crude.

    Mnuchin said on Thursday he was “very optimistic” the Phase One trade deal with China will be signed by January.

    The Finance Ministry in Beijing, meanwhile, announced US tariff exemptions for chemical products metallocene high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), as well as refined oil products white oil and food-grade petroleum wax.

    The exemptions will be in the duration of one year beginning on December 26, the Finance Ministry said.

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