Oil bounced back above $77 on Wednesday, reaching its highest level in almost two weeks, as recovery optimism drove Asian stock markets higher, led by China. U.S. crude for March delivery touched $77.66 a barrel, the highest price since Jan. 21, and was trading up on the day. On Tuesday it soared 3.8 percent, the biggest gain for a front-month contract since Sept. 30.
MSCI's Asia ex-Japan resources and energy indexes both rose 2.5 percent on the back of firmer commodity prices, and were the biggest contributors to the broader rise in Asian shares. "We've had several months of indicators that suggest that economic expansion is under way, and this is likely to translate into higher oil demand for industrialized countries," said Stefan Graber, a commodities analyst with Credit Suisse in Singapore.
Shares in Chinese oil and gas producer CNOOC rose as much as 11 percent after the company issued 2010 production forecasts that exceeded expectations. Prices had slipped earlier after an industry report showed U.S. crude inventories rose more than expected, damping optimism of a recovery in demand. The price of crude is still nearly 48 percent below its July 2008 high of more than $147 a barrel.