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UPDATE 2-Continental Resources expects higher cash flow in 2021, restores dividend

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(Adds cash flow guidance, compares with estimates)

April 28 (Reuters) - U.S. shale producer Continental Resources Inc raised its operating cash flow target for 2021 and reinstated its dividend on Wednesday as oil prices recovered from a pandemic-driven plunge last year.

The company also posted its first quarterly profit since the pandemic began, as rapid vaccine rollouts and rising travel demand drove U.S. crude 27% higher to average about $58 a barrel in the quarter.

Continental now expects to generate $3.1 billion of cash flow from operations for 2021 if U.S. crude prices are at least $60 per barrel and gas prices hover around $2.75 per thousand cubic feet (mcf).

That compares with its previous estimate of $2.4 billion at $52 per barrel of U.S. crude and $2.75 per mcf of gas.

Continental also reinstated quarterly dividend at $0.11 per share, which is double the quarterly dividend it paid in February 2020. It had suspended dividend in April last year after oil prices crashed.

Continental, which beat analysts' estimates for quarterly profit, said average prices in the three months stood at $43.11 per barrel of oil equivalent, 75% higher than the prior quarter.

Gas prices were buoyed by a winter storm that swept across U.S. central and southern states, boosting demand for the fuel used in heating and electricity generation.

However, the storm also disrupted operations, forcing producers to shut in some output. Continental this month warned of a 6,000-barrels-per-day hit from the storm.

Total production fell 9.2% from the fourth quarter to average 307,942 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Oil major Chevron Corp raised its quarterly dividend by 5 cents to $1.34 per share on Wednesday, while Exxon's dividend was flat at $0.87 per share.

Continental posted an adjusted profit of 77 cents per share, beating analysts' average estimate of 44 cents per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data. (Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)