OIL PRICES: ABOVE $68
Brent crude futures were at $68.78 at 0128 GMT, down 53 cents, or 0.8 percent, from their last close. On Monday, they hit their highest since December, 2014 at $70.37 a barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.36 a barrel, down 59 cents, or 0.9 percent, from their last settlement. WTI marked a December-2014 peak of $64.89 a barrel on Tuesday.
Traders said the lower prices were prompted by a recovery in U.S. oil production after a recent drop, as well as by an expected fall in demand when winter ends in the northern hemisphere.
U.S. crude oil production stood at 9.75 million barrels per day (bpd) on Jan. 12, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed.
Output had fallen to 9.49 million barrels at the start of the year, due largely to a cold snap that shut down some production.
Most analysts expect U.S. output to break through 10 million barrels per day soon.
Analysts also pointed to excessive long positions in financial oil markets as a likely brake on any upward momentum in prices, with many traders soon likely to cash in on recent price rises, which saw crude jump by around 14 percent since early December.
"An upcoming soft patch in demand and extreme investors positioning does open up the possibility of some short-term weakness," ANZ bank said.
Overall, however, oil prices remain well supported, and most analysts do not expect steep declines.
The main price driver has been a production cut by a group of major oil producers around the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia, who started to withhold production in January last year.
The supply cuts by OPEC and its allies, which are scheduled to last throughout 2018, were aimed at tightening the market in order to prop up prices.
In the United States, crude inventories fell 6.9 million barrels in the week to Jan. 12, to 412.65 million barrels.
That's their lowest seasonal level in three years and below the five-year average marker around 420 million barrels.
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U.S. EIA - Energy companies’ free cash flow—the difference between cash from operations and capital expenditure—was $119 billion for the four quarters ending June 30, 2018, the largest four-quarter sum during 2013–18 Companies reduced debt for seven consecutive quarters, contributing to the lowest long-term debt-to-equity ratio since third-quarter 2014
OPEC - Total oil demand for 2018 is now estimated at 98.82 mb/d. In 2019, world oil demand growth is forecast to rise by 1.41 mb/d. Total world oil demand in 2019 is now projected to surpass 100 mb/d for the first time and reach 100.23 mb/d.
ARAB NEWS - Oil exports from southern Iraq are heading for a record high this month, two industry sources said, adding to signs that OPEC’s second-largest producer is following through on a deal to raise supply and local unrest is not affecting shipments.
PLATTS - The International Energy Agency expects the US to account for 75% of the global growth in natural gas exports over the next five years, a bullish outlook for LNG developers facing challenges at home getting projects off the ground and abroad with tariffs affecting trade flows.