Thursday, May 4, 2017

Oil Eases, Near Weakest Since Late March On Small U.S. Stocks Decline

By Naveen Thukral
May 4, 2017

Crude oil lost ground on Thursday, falling for a third out of four sessions and trading near its lowest since late March after data showed a lower than expected decline in U.S. inventories.

U.S. crude stockpiles fell less than expected last week, while gasoline inventories grew as demand remained weak, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, keeping concerns about global supply on a simmer.

Crude inventories USOILC=ECI fell by 930,000 barrels in the week to April 28, much less than analysts' expectations for a decrease of 2.3 million barrels. Crude stocks have steadily declined for the last four weeks, but at 527.8 million barrels they are still 3 percent higher from this time a year ago.

The benchmark Brent crude oil LCOc1 fell 24 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $50.55 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 lost 26 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $47.56 a barrel.

WTI hit its lowest since March 27 at $47.30 a barrel in the last session, while Brent crude on Tuesday slid to its lowest since late March at $50.14 a barrel.

While the market takes direction from U.S. inventories and rising production, investors are also monitoring whether producing countries have been complying with their 2016 deal to cut output around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) by the middle of the year.

"Crude remains mired near the bottom of its respective ranges," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore.

"The market will get increasingly nervous as we approach late May, about the details (or not) of an extension to the OPEC production cut agreement."

The market is expecting OPEC and other producers to extend production cuts well into the second half of the year.

Russia, contributing the largest production cut outside OPEC, said as of May 1, it had cut output by more than 300,000 bpd since hitting peak production in October.

However the latest Reuters survey of OPEC production showed the country's compliance had fallen slightly. OPEC meets on May 25 to discuss extending the agreement.

Iraqi fuel oil exports have soared since January despite a reduction in the country's crude production in line with OPEC supply cuts, industry sources said, in what could be a way to boost output of refined products and maintain oil revenues.

Iraq on average exported between 80,000 and 160,000 tonnes of fuel oil per month in 2016, data collected by Thomson Reuters Oil Research showed.

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