Oil prices steady, on track for weekly gain

* Brent, WTI both on track for more than 2% weekly gains

* Vaccines likely to mitigate Delta's impact on demand -analysts (Adds details, comments, updates prices, changes dateline to NEW YORK; previous LONDON)

By Devika Krishna Kumar

LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Oil prices were little changed on Friday and were on track to post weekly gains, with demand growing faster than supply, while vaccinations are expected to alleviate the impact of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections across the globe.

Brent crude futures for September, which expire on Friday, rose 26 cents, or 0.3%, to $76.31 a barrel by 11:25 am ET (1526 GMT).

The more active Brent contract for October was up 17 cents, or 0.2%, at $75.27 per barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $73.74 a barrel.

Both benchmark contracts were headed for gains of more than 2% for the week and small gains for July, the fourth straight monthly increase.

Even with coronavirus cases rising in the United States, all around Asia and parts of Europe, analysts said higher vaccination rates would limit the need for the harsh lockdowns that gutted demand during the peak of the pandemic last year.

"The oil complex has apparently taken a second look at the coronavirus factor in determining that demand will see only a modest reduction, at least one that will prove miniscule in relation to last year's plunge in consumption," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

Analysts pointed to a rapid rebound in India's gasoline consumption and industrial production following its COVID-19 surge as a sign that economies are more resilient.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said oil consumption was increasing across the globe.

"Demand is on the rise, consumption is on the rise. Of course, the coronavirus is still there but ... there are no such lockdowns as there were before," he told reporters.

U.S. oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron reported earnings, and their guidance indicated the market should remain tight, analysts said.

"Big oil is not ramping up spending in news wells and focusing on debt reduction, which should keep OPEC+ happy with their steady plan of increasing output," Edward Moya, senior market analyst for the Americas at OANDA said.

"OPEC+ is not losing market share to the U.S., which should mean the oil market is still poised to go much higher."

A Reuters survey found OPEC oil output rose in July to its highest since April 2020, as the group further eased production curbs.

U.S. crude production rose just 80,000 barrels per day in May to 11.23 million bpd, according to a monthly government report.

Still, oil prices will trade near $70 per barrel for the rest of the year supported by the global economic recovery and a slower-than-expected return of Iranian supplies, with further gains limited by new coronavirus variants, a Reuters poll showed.

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is expected to raise crude prices to Asia in September for a second straight month, tracking strength in Middle East benchmarks, trade sources said. (Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, additional reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Koustav Samanta in Singapore; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Louise Heavens and David Gregorio)

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