OIL PRICE: ABOVE $57 YET
Strong Chinese oil import data also supported crude prices, traders said.
With the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) leading a production cut, analysts said that global oil markets were now broadly balanced after years of oversupply.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $51.01 per barrel at 0647 GMT, up 41 cents, or 0.8 percent, from its last settlement. Brent was at $56.58, up 33 cents, or 0.6 percent.
U.S. crude inventories dropped 2.7 million barrels in the week to Oct. 6, to 462.22 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said late on Thursday.
Crude production slipped 81,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 9.48 million bpd.
Strong Chinese oil imports, which averaged 8.5 million bpd between January and September and hit 9 million bpd in September, also supported prices, as China solidified itself as the world's biggest importer.
China's huge imports have been strongly driven by purchases for its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR).
"It seems the majority of this is SPR buying, not consumer demand," said Matt Stanley, a fuel broker at Freight Investor Services (FIS).
China has spent around $24 billion on building its crude reserves since 2015 and now holds around 850 million barrels of oil in inventory, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Despite the tightening market, Bernstein Research said that OPEC would need to extend the cuts beyond the current expiry date in March 2018 to further reduce excess stocks.
"OPEC will not achieve normalized inventory levels before cuts expire at the end of March," Bernstein said, but added that "we believe an extension of cuts through 2018 should allow inventories to reach normalized levels before the end of 2018".
OPEC, together with other producers including Russia has been restraining output since January. The pact to cut production is set to expire by the end of March 2018, and there are discussions for an extension.
Traders said they were awaiting a decision later on Friday by U.S. President Donald Trump on whether to continue to certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Trump is expected not to certify the agreement, which has to be re-certified every 90 days and is due for renewal on Sunday.
The step would not withdraw the United States from the deal but would give the congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose new sanctions.
"U.S. sanctions could cut off a lot of Iranian oil trade finance," FGE President Jeff Brown told Reuters this week.
"Last time we saw this, it cut off 1 million bpd of supplies. I don't think it'd be that big this time round, but it would still be significant," said Brown.
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AN - China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) is willing to invest $3 billion in its existing oil and gas operation in Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said on Sunday following a meeting with the Chinese in Abuja.
REUTERS - Production at Libya’s giant Sharara oil field was expected to fall by at least 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) on Saturday after two staff were abducted in an attack by an unknown group, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) said.
IMF - Output grew by 3.8 percent in 2017, underpinned by a resilient non-hydrocarbon sector, with robust implementation of GCC-funded projects as well as strong activity in the financial, hospitality, and education sectors. The banking system remains stable with large capital buffers. Growth is projected to decelerate over the medium term.
IMF - Higher oil prices and short-term portfolio inflows have provided relief from external and fiscal pressures but the recovery remains challenging. Inflation declined to its lowest level in more than two years. Real GDP expanded by 2 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the first quarter of last year. However, activity in the non-oil non-agricultural sector remains weak as lower purchasing power weighs on consumer demand and as credit risk continues to limit bank lending.