Oil prices waver ahead of US data

LONDON, January 24, 2018 – Crude prices were largely unchanged on Wednesday, amid speculation weekly supply data due later in the day will show an increase in U.S. oil and fuel supplies.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release its official weekly oil supplies report for the week ended Jan. 19 at 10:30AM ET (1530GMT).

After markets closed Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute said that U.S. oil inventories rose by nearly 4.8 million barrels last week. It was the first increase in ten weeks and compared with analysts’ expectations for a decline of around 1.0 million barrels.

The API report also showed a gain of 4.1 million barrels in gasoline stocks, while distillate stocks, which include motor diesel and heating oil, fell by about 1.3 million barrels.

There are often sharp divergences between the API estimates and the official figures from EIA.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures tacked on 9 cents to $64.56 a barrel by 3:55AM ET (0855GMT). The U.S. benchmark hit its highest since Dec. 2014 on Jan. 16 at $64.89 a barrel.

 

Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., were down 13 cents at $69.83 a barrel, still not far off the Jan. 15 three-year high of $70.37 a barrel.

Oil prices finished higher on Tuesday amid ongoing optimism over global supply cuts.

Oil prices have risen almost 50% from around $43 a barrel in June, benefiting from production cut efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia. The producers agreed in December to extend current oil output cuts until the end of 2018.

The deal to cut oil output by 1.8 million barrels a day (bpd) was adopted last winter by OPEC, Russia and nine other global producers. The agreement was due to end in March 2018, having already been extended once.

Analysts and traders have recently warned that U.S. shale oil producers could ramp up production as they look to take advantage of higher prices, potentially derailing an OPEC-led effort to curb excess supply.

In other energy trading, gasoline futures were steady around $1.908 a gallon, while heating oil was little changed at $2.087 a gallon.

Natural gas futures rallied 15.5 cents, or 4.5%, to $3.599 per million British thermal units.

The commodity rallied 6.8% on Tuesday to its highest level since Dec. 30, 2016, boosted by forecasts that call for frigid temperatures again in parts of the U.S. during early February.

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