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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Oil edges down as it finds a range

Decline comes despite US crude inventories falling more than expected

An offshore oil platform at the Bouri Oil Field off the coast of Libya. Crude prices have broken the $60 level. Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters
An offshore oil platform at the Bouri Oil Field off the coast of Libya. Crude prices have broken the $60 level. Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters

Oil futures inched down on Thursday despite official figures showing US crude inventories fell more than expected, with an analyst saying the market had settled into a range.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 4 cents, or 0.1 per cent, at US$52.66 at around 02.32 GMT, after earlier trading as high as $52.80. It closed up 1.1 per cent on Wednesday, snapping two days of declines.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down 3 cents at $49.52, after rising to $49.69 earlier. The contract gained 0.8 per cent in the previous session.

"We have settled into a range. The US dollar is slightly stronger, which may be creating a bit of negativity, but broadly I think the market is trading sideways at the moment," said Ric Spooner, the chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

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US crude stockpiles fell last week as refineries boosted output to the highest percentage of capacity in 12 years, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

US oil inventories dropped by 6.5 million barrels last week, the government data showed, steeper than the expected decrease of 2.7 million barrels.

"It does create the hope that we are going to end the summer driving season with inventories below the year before, which would be a positive development," Mr Spooner said.

Refiners processed nearly 17.6 million barrels of crude, surpassing a record set in May and the most for any week since the US department of energy started keeping data in 1982.

But a surprise increase in petrol stocks is capping gains in oil prices and tempering attempts by Opec, Russia and other producers to boost prices that are about half of levels three years ago.

They are cutting output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) under an agreement set to run until March 2018.

The deal has supported prices but a recovery in output in Libya and Nigeria, Opec members exempt from the cut, has also complicated the initiative.