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Oil prices flatten as rise in United States production weighs

21 April 2017

The continued growth in US production and the rise in stockpiles forced the market to respond bearishly based on the increased inventory outlook.

Volumes were thin, with about 152,000 Brent futures contracts and about 296,000 WTI contracts changing hands, less than half of Thursday's trading volumes. Crude inventories fell 1.03 million barrels to 532.3 million, the agency reported Wednesday.

US crude oil production has climbed to 9.24 million barrels per day, according to the latest Energy Information Administration data.

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Thirteen members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and 11 non-OPEC members agreed to cut production by about 1.8 million barrels a day to prop up oil prices in December previous year.

If that is right, May will have the biggest monthly increase since February 2015 and the highest monthly production level since November 2015.

James Williams, president of energy consultant WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said the minister's bullish statement did not lift prices much because of growing USA shale production.

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Crude production advanced 17,000 bpd to 9.25 million in the week ended April 14, the highest since August 2015. The less-volatile four-week moving average declined 4,250.

While OPEC countries still made up most (57%) of China's 7.6 million barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil imports in 2016, crude oil from non-OPEC countries made up 65% of the growth in China's imports between 2012 and 2016. Distillate stockpiles fell a bit more than expected-down 2 million barrels last week.

US inventories now sit at 532.3 million barrels, only down about 3 million units from the record reached in March. Some reports suggested that OPEC and non-OPEC producers participating in the existing pact would meet on the same day, May 25, to decide on production policy for the second half of the year. American refiners typically boost operating rates at this time of year as they prepare for the summer surge in gasoline demand. "The reasons are twofold". Crude prices also fell, despite a draw in crude inventories.

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Secretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Mohamed Barkindo said Wednesday the member states of the cartel showed in March higher compliance to bring down oil stocks. Brent futures posted modest gains, however, ending up 6 cents to $52.99 a barrel.