Oil prices high on expectations of U.S. inventory drains

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Higher oil prices aren't an instant fix for Houston's economy.

Oil prices settled higher Friday as Russia's oil minister said that global crude supplies were "not balanced yet".

That would match the all-time monthly record of 10.04 million bpd set in November 1970; oil production declined after that as the United States increasingly relied on imported crude.

Contributing to the difference between production and consumption was a 200,000 b/d decrease in oil production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Production in the USA declined this past week, but expectations are for higher volumes in 2018. For the same period, inventories increased by 1.3 million barrels from 2013-17. A market titled toward the supply side two years ago could tolerate the removal of barrels, but the gap between supply and demand has all-but vanished. Analysts said that could have been the result of extreme cold temperatures across the United States.

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"Geopolitical factors are probably in focus as well today, with the upcoming Trump decision on Iran and its implication on Iranian crude exports", he told UPI.

The oil market has been buoyant for weeks, with USA crude futures at highs not seen since late 2014, and Brent crude less than US$1 per barrel away from a similar milestone.

Brent also marked a December-2014 high the previous day, at $70.05 a barrel. Accordingly crude import bill will rise by around USD 1.5 billion for every dollar increase in crude price, the report said.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.53 a barrel at 0144 GMT, 4 cents below their last settlement but still close to a December 2014 high of $63.67 per barrel reached the previous day.

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Several analysts this week have warned the rally may run out of steam, Trump notwithstanding. For 2019, EIA expects US production to increase to an average of 10.8 million bpd, and to surpass 11 million bpd in November next year.

Last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a large draw of 4.992 million barrels of crude oil, along with an increase in gasoline inventories of 1.87 million barrels.

Analysts said his remarks alleviated market concerns about a wind-down of the OPEC-led deal to reduce production. EIA estimates that, absent significant pipeline constraints, moving crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the U.S. Gulf Coast typically costs about $3.50/b. "This demand surge is a global phenomenon".

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