Published: Fri, March 03, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

Oil prices slip as rising U.S. supplies offset OPEC cuts

The outlook for the oil complex remains murky, with a wide array of views on a number of key factors for prices, including the lasting impact of the output cuts associated with the November 30 OPEC/non-OPEC agreement and the direction of USA oil production. Saudi Arabia continued to lead OPEC's efforts to cut production, helping the group get closer to a goal set out in a historic accord a year ago.

Oil prices fell on Thursday after USA crude stocks hit an all-time high and official data showed Russian oil production unchanged in February, with no further cuts to tighten the market and drain global oversupply. OPEC has achieved 86 percent compliance rate on the proposed cuts in January 2017.

Despite the threat of US production, several analysts' and fund managers expect prices to rebound from their current level, thanks to higher than expected compliance from OPEC producers.

And the most recently weekly estimates suggest production increased significantly again during January and February.

"OPEC will be happy with price stability in the upper half of our shale band (i.e. trying to keep prices in the $50-60 upper half) and above $60 a barrel, we will see more OPEC cheating as members do not want to see USA shale oil come back too strongly".

Analysts predict another improvement in inventory last week, which may further negate the effect of OPEC-output cut to end global oversupply.

Still, oil remained locked within a tight trading range as strict OPEC compliance with output cuts offset rising USA oil reserves.

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The Energy Information Administration said inventories rose by 1.5 million barrels last week.

OPEC announced a production target of 32.5 million bpd at its November 30 meeting, which was based on low figures for Libya and Nigeria and included Indonesia, which has since left the group.

Crude oil fell for a third consecutive session on Thursday as a record build-up in U.S. stockpiles weighed on the market, with producers boosting shale oil production.

Also, data from the EIA showed that domestic supplies of natural gas rose by 7 billion cubic feet for the week ended February 24.

The country's crude oil output was 3.9 million bpd in January, Zanganeh had previously announced.

USA crude exports have averaged nearly 900,000 bpd during the last four weeks, up from about 500,000 bpd in September. That rate will slow down, but it illustrates that there is a very strong push-pull relationship between OPEC and US production. Now, the energy world is abuzz about a recent surge in American crude exports that would be unprecedented if sustained.

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