(London) Crude prices continued to decline on Thursday, the return of oil tankers from large shipowners to the Red Sea reassuring the market which feared supply problems in this key area where tensions remain high.

Around 6:20 a.m., the price of a barrel of Brent from the North Sea, for delivery in February, which is the last day of trading, fell by 1.05%, to $78.81.

Its American equivalent, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), for delivery the same month, lost 1.13%, to $73.27.

“As oil tankers … have resumed their crossings of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, thanks to the reassuring presence of a US-led maritime team in the region, this has helped to allay some immediate concerns about the supply issues,” says Susannah Streeter, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Ships from the shipowner CMA-CGM have indeed returned to the Red Sea after attacks perpetrated by Houthi rebels in Yemen, and those from Maersk will do the same, the two shipping giants said on Wednesday.

“Some ships have transited through the Red Sea” and “we plan to gradually increase the transit of our ships through the Suez Canal” – which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea – indicated the French group CMA-CGM in a message to its customers, transmitted to AFP.

Maersk is preparing for its part to “resume navigation in the Red Sea towards the east as well as towards the west”, indicated the Danish carrier on Sunday in a press release, and the first cargo ships will use the canal “as quickly as possible”.

“However, tensions remain high,” nuance Ms. Streeter. “Crude prices therefore remain largely elevated, especially as the US economy shows signs of resilience, strengthening the outlook for global demand.”

In addition, investors are awaiting the publication on Thursday of the state of US weekly commercial inventories by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) for the week ended December 22.

The industry’s federation, the American Petroleum Institute (API), estimated Wednesday that crude inventories rose by about 1.84 million barrels last week, and gasoline inventories fell by 482,000 barrels. . However, API data are considered less reliable than those of the EIA.

Analysts, for their part, expect a drop of 2.85 million barrels in commercial crude reserves, and a slight drop of around 250,000 barrels of gasoline, according to the median of a consensus compiled by Bloomberg.