OIL PRICES: ABOVE $55
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $55.49 per barrel at 0701 GMT, up 25 cents, or 0.45 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 25 cents, or 0.46 percent, at $52.48 a barrel.
ANZ bank said that strong oil demand and "an unsettled global backdrop (is) leaving the market very finely balanced."
However, another increase in U.S. oil drilling - for the 12th straight week and taking the count to 672 rigs, which is the highest since August 2015 - kept markets from breaking last week's one-month highs of over $56 per barrel.
U.S. bank Goldman Sachs said after the rig data release that year-on-year U.S. oil production "would rise by 215,000 barrels per day in 2017" once a backlog of production waiting to be brought back online was taken into account.
The soaring U.S. output contrasts with a supply cut led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which hopes to prop up prices by reducing supplies in the first half of 2017 - and maybe beyond.
"The U.S. rig count continues to soar and we are close to a two-year high on that. Judging by the relative success of the OPEC agreement keeping prices propped up, I don't see a reason for that to decline in the near future," said Matt Stanley, a fuel broker at Freight Services International (FIS) in Dubai.
"Reduced OPEC volumes and stronger U.S. output will result in a deeper discount for U.S. crude and support greater exports from the U.S. to Asia over the coming months," BMI Research said. It added, though, that in terms of overall volumes, "the U.S. will remain a small player in Asia as OPEC actively protects its market share."
Beyond the United States, other producers are also benefiting from OPEC's supply cuts and tighter market.
Brazil's oil exports have soared 65 percent since February 2016, to a record of more than 1.46 million bpd, according to government data obtained by Reuters.
Consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimates Brazil oil exports will hit an average of nearly 1 million bpd for the whole of 2017, up from 798,000 bpd last year.
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There are more than a dozen LNG export projects currently being proposed to US regulators, though across the industry almost no final investment decisions have been announced over the last 18 months and some developers have delayed their decisions into 2018 or beyond. Few firm supply purchase agreements have been announced for the projects that have yet to commit to moving forward.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Canada's largest energy customer has boosted domestic oil production from less than four million barrels per day in 2008 to 9.2 million bpd now, while gas output has risen from 67 million cubic feet per day to 89 million cf/d.
Egypt’s fledgling solar industry attracted $1.8 billion of investment, largely from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp.
International Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $57.75 per barrel at 0733 GMT, up 58 cents from the previous close, after trading as high as $58.13. U.S. WTI crude was at $51.95 per barrel, up 50 cents. Earlier in the day, it traded as high as $52.22.