On a day when USA commodities benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) traded at $63.24, the highest in more than two years, the EIA came out with new production figures.
Oman Minister of Oil & Gas Mohammed Al Rumhy sees oil prices holding around $65-70/bbl for the next few weeks as the region reduces output by 45K b/d, while Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak warns that ' the market hasn't rebalanced in full ' as Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov favors crude stabilizing around $70/bbl. In particular, US crude oil production is expected to increase more quickly than any other country.
US crude prices will have to stay above $60 a barrel for several quarters to stimulate job growth in Houston's oil-production industry, the Greater Houston Partnership said this week.
For most of 2017, the resurgence of USA crude oil production was capping price gains and offset part of the production cuts that OPEC and its Russia-led non-OPEC partners have been implementing since January a year ago.
Higher oil prices aren't an instant fix for Houston's economy. EIA forecasts the US average regular retail gasoline price will average $2.57/gallon (gal) in 2018 and $2.58/gal in 2019, slightly higher than the $2.42/gal average in 2017.
Oil prices have surged more than 13 per cent since early December, and there are indications of overheating.
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At 08:53 a.m. EST on Friday, WTI Crude was down 0.44 percent at $63.26, and Brent Crude was down 0.14 percent at $68.89, as investors were awaiting U.S. President Trump's decision on Iran and Baker Hughes rig count data.
At 96.7% of capacity the week ending December 29, the utilization rate was higher than at any point in 2017, topping 96.6% mark from late August.
Inventories declined in 2017 for the first time in 4-years as refiners are running at near record rates. That level would be the highest annual average on record, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970.
Weekly data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed crude stockpiles fell by 4.9m barrels, more than the 3.89m barrel draw analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters. Production in the USA declined this past week, but expectations are for higher volumes in 2018. Apart from greater domestic production, cargoes were even heard to be headed to the USA from overseas.
Analysts are looking for an increase in gasoline stocks of 2.3 million barrels, which would fall well below the 6.05 million-barrel build seen for the same period from 2013-17. Also, the dollar fell in a broad sell-off after a report that China was ready to slow or halt its USA treasury purchases.