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US oil output back near records, challenging OPEC

19 May 2017

Oil futures rose in early trading on Friday on growing optimism that big producing countries will extend output cuts to curb a persistent glut in crude, with key benchmarks heading for a second week of gains.

The agreement between the two suggests that a nine-month extension of the cuts is as good as a done deal when OPEC meets in Vienna on May 25.

Brent for July settlement added 5 cents to $50.89/bbl on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Up for final discussion there is whether to extend the current six-month production-cut deal beyond the mid-2017 expiration, and if so for how long and whether the reductions should be increased. Together, they declared they would "do whatever it takes" to achieve the goal of stabilizing the market and bringing global oil inventories back to five-year average levels.

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In recent years Saudi Arabia, concerned with the increase in USA shale gas production, increased its oil output to drive down prices in a bid to make shale gas exploration economically unattractive.

Crude oil exports from Saudi Arabia rose by 275,000 barrels a day in March from February and stockpiles rose, official data showed late on Thursday. Eleven non-OPEC countries are participating in the supply cut.

"This should see oil prices remain well bid, as OPEC continues to talk up a continuation of the production cut agreement", it said.

Thomas Finlon, director of Energy Analytics Group LLC, added, "There's room for guarded optimism: OPEC appears to be close to an agreement to roll over the cuts, and USA inventories are finally starting to decline".

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OPEC and other non-OPEC nations - most notably Russian Federation - are now widely expected to extend production cuts for another nine months, through March 2018.

On the demand side, The IEA reiterated its forecast rate of growth at 1.3 million bpd for this year, to a total 97.9 million barrels, although over the first half of the year demand will grow more slowly because of India, the U.S., Germany, and Turkey.

The world market for oil was almost balanced during the first quarter, though US oil production and Middle East gains complicate the issue, the IEA said.

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