OIL PRICES: ABOVE $56 NOW
REUTERS - Oil prices rose on Thursday, supported by an unexpected draw in U.S. gasoline inventories, although bloated crude supplies meant that fuel markets remain under pressure.
Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was up 50 cents a barrel at $55.62 per barrel by 1130 GMT. U.S. light crude CLc1 was 50 cents higher at $52.84 a barrel.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday gasoline inventories USOILG=ECI fell by 869,000 barrels last week to 256.2 million barrels, versus analyst expectations for a 1.1 million-barrel gain.
The fall in gasoline stocks suggested U.S. consumption was stronger than expected, and may be healthy enough to support prices at time when most fuel oil markets are very well stocked.
"U.S. gasoline draws are supporting prices today," said Tamas Varga, senior analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates. "They are an indication of stronger U.S. demand."
The EIA report also said that U.S. commercial crude inventories rose by 13.8 million barrels to 508.6 million barrels.
U.S. bank Goldman Sachs said high fuel inventories and rising U.S. crude production meant oil markets would be over-supplied for some time, but that they would drain gradually.
"We do not view the recent excess U.S. builds as derailing our forecast for a gradual draw in inventories, with in fact the rest of the world already showing signs of tightness," the bank said in a note to clients.
"The draws that we expect will start from a high base," the bank said. "U.S. production has also rebounded ... and we view the faster shale rebound as creating downside risk to our 2018 WTI price forecast of $55 per barrel, but not to our expectation that the global oil market will shift into deficit in 1H17."
High oil inventories have been undermining efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers including Russia to tighten the market by cutting production.
OPEC and other big exporters have agreed to trim output by almost 1.8 million bpd during the first half of this year in order to prop up prices and rebalance the market.
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REUTERS - Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was up 50 cents at $75.58 a barrel by 0835 GMT. U.S. light crude CLc1 was 50 cents higher at $65.57.