Oil prices firm on trade hopes, but record United States output drags

Oil near 2019 highs amid OPEC cuts, US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela

US crude oil inventories increase last week: API - Xinhua | English.news.cn

"Willingness of the OPEC+ group to adhere with the output cut agreement will remain supportive of oil prices in the run-up to their scheduled April meeting", said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy in London.

Oil prices fell below 2019 highs on Thursday after US government data showed a fifth weekly build in crude inventories and record production, while concerns about slowing global economic growth weighed. -China trade talks would soon produce a deal, although new record US oil supply limited gains.

The market is awaiting data for this week's USA rig count, an indicator of future production, due after 1 p.m. EST.

At least in part offsetting that is surging US crude oil production, which reached 12 million bpd for the first time last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday.

'Slowing economic growth will invariably lead to weakness in fuel consumption, thus eroding bullish gains for oil prices, ' Philip Futures analyst Benjamin Lu said.

The West Texas Intermediate for April delivery was up 0.30 USA dollar to settle at 57.26 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for April delivery rose 0.05 dollar to close at 67.12 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.

Prices have also been supported by supply cuts led by oil cartel Opec.

International Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $66.94 perbarrel at 0151 GMT, down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from theirlast close. America is the only country to ever reach production of 12 million bpd.

On Tuesday, EIA forecast output from seven major USA shale fields will rise by 84,000 bpd next month to 8.4 million bpd. OPEC and 10 allied producers outside the cartel, led by Russian Federation, agreed in late December to collectively hold back output by 1.2 million barrels day for the first half of 2019.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 3.7 million barrels from the previous week to 454.5 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Thursday, which marked the highest level since October 2017.

"We see total U.S. crude production hitting 13-million bpd by year-end, with 2019 averaging 12.5-million bpd", United States bank Citi said following the release of the EIA report.

The U.S. will start consistently exporting more crude oil and petroleum products than it imports at the end of next year, EIA recently forecast.

That means much will depend on demand, which Goldman said it expected to grow by 1.4 million bpd this year.

Money managers cut their net long U.S. crude futures and options positions in the week to February 5, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on Friday.

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