OIL PRICE: NOT ABOVE $63 AGAIN
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $56.58 a barrel at 0714 GMT, down 11 cents, or 0.2 percent from their last settlement.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were down 8 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $62.12 a barrel.
Traders said a stronger dollar, which has gained over 0.9 percent this month against a basket of other leading currencies, was weighing on prices.
A rising greenback attracts financial traders who switch investments between commodity futures and foreign exchange.
"A strong U.S. dollar could act as a headwind to commodities," Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML) said in its 2018 outlook.
Preventing prices from sliding further was booming oil demand from China, which will this year overtake the United States as the world's biggest crude importer.
China's crude oil imports rose to 37.04 million tonnes in November, or 9.01 million barrels per day (bpd), the second highest on record, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Friday.
"China's crude oil imports will continue to rise over the coming years, as output declines from several of its giant onshore fields... This will inevitably see China become more reliant on crude oil imports over our forecast period, with import dependency set to increase from a record 68.0 percent in 2017 to nearly 80 percent by 2021," BMI Research said.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, said healthy global demand and tight supplies should see Brent crude oil rise to $70 per barrel by mid-year.
U.S. investment bank Jefferies said it expects 2018 global oil demand growth of 1.5 million bpd, driven by near 10 percent demand growth in China.
On the supply side, oil prices have been receiving support from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and a group of non-OPEC producers, most importantly Russia, which has been withholding supplies to tighten the market.
Largely because of these voluntary production cuts, oil prices rose sharply between June and October, with Brent gaining around 40 percent in value.
Threatening to undermine OPEC's goal to tighten markets is U.S. oil production, which has risen by more than 15 percent since mid-2016 to 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd), the highest level since the early 1970s and close to the output of top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The EIA monthly data on US crude production published Nov. 30 was also somewhat bearish.
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API - American Petroleum Institute reported that the first four months of this year saw U.S. petroleum demand average 750 thousand barrels a day above the same period in 2017 despite higher prices, a sign of solid economic activity. April also saw the U.S. produce a record 10.5 million barrels per day (MBD) of oil.
IMF - “Egypt’s growth has continued to accelerate during 2017/18, rising to 5.2 percent in the first half of the year from 4.2 percent in 2016/17. The current account deficit has also declined sharply, reflecting the recovery in tourism and strong growth in remittances, while improved investor confidence has continued to support portfolio inflows. In addition, gross international reserves rose to $44 billion by end-April, equal to 7 months of imports.
BAKER HUGHES A GE - U.S. Rig Count is up 1 rig from last week to 1,046, with oil rigs unchanged at 844, gas rigs up 1 to 200, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 2. Canada Rig Count is up 4 rigs from last week to 83, with oil rigs up 6 to 38 and gas rigs down 2 to 45.
REUTERS - Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $79.57 per barrel at 0310 GMT, up 27 cents, or 0.3 percent from their last close. Brent broke through $80 for the first time since November 2014 on Thursday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $71.62 a barrel, up 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last settlement.