Oil markets cling to near 3-year highs on tighter US market

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U.S. gasoline stocks rose 4.1 million barrels, EIA data showed, more than expected, while Singapore average refinery profit margins have fallen below US$6 per barrel this month, their lowest seasonal level in five years.

But on Thursday United Arab Emirates (UAE) oil minister and current Opec president Suhail al-Mazrouei said he expected the market to balance in 2018 and that the producer group was committed to its supply reduction pact until the end of this year.

Crude oil prices jumped on Wednesday and settled near three-year highs after USA government data showed a drop in crude inventories and production, even as fuel inventories rose. OPEC in December, however, produced about 50,000 barrels per day more than in November.

There are several reasons why oil markets have tightened. That level would be the highest annual average on record, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970.

Novak said the current oil price was short-term, and he would discuss the situation at a ministerial monitoring committee meeting in Oman, scheduled for January 21.

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"EIA expects Venezuela's production to continue to fall through the forecast period as the financial situation of the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) becomes more precarious", according to EIA/STEO. February crude rose 21 cents, or 0.3%, to $63.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down from $63.35 before the supply data. The agency expects production to rise by 6.9 bcf per day, 9.3 percent, in 2018, and by 2.6 bcf, 3.2 percent, in 2019. After reaching $70, some profit-taking is expected. EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) from earlier this week estimated that US crude oil production averaged 9.3 million bpd in the whole of 2017, and 9.9 million bpd in December alone. Brent touched $69.29 in late Tuesday trading, the highest since May 2015.

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

The price upturn began in June past year, and now prices are nearing levels from late 2014.

The growth of North American shale production, which caused an estimated 5 percent increase in USA crude output in 2017, has rocked the oil industry in the past few years, spurring OPEC and other traditional producers to cut output to trim global inventories.

EIA research shows that USA gasoline prices tend to follow the price of the best grades of oil in Europe, more than they follow the price of the best US crude. Some observers have argued that the vast majority of the production increase has been in the form of natural gas liquids or condensates - lighter hydrocarbons that include propane and butane when refined.

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