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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Oil opens above $50 for first time since May

Overall US commercial crude oil stocks have fallen by 10 per cent

A pump jack on an oilfield in Bashkortostan, Russia. Crude prices are lower. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters
A pump jack on an oilfield in Bashkortostan, Russia. Crude prices are lower. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

US oil opened above US$50 per barrel for the first time since late May, supported by strong fuel demand, but ongoing high supplies from producer club Opec kept prices from rising further.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $50.25 per barrel at 01.27 GMT, up 8 cents, or 0.2 per cent, from their last close. That marked the first time US crude had opened above $50 per barrel since May 25.

Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were trading up 6 cents, or 0.1 per cent, at $52.78 per barrel.

"US gasoline demand climbed to last year's highs and US inventories, notably on the East Coast, declined," said the French bank BNP Paribas.

Overall US commercial crude oil stocks have fallen by 10 per cent from their late-March peaks to 483.4 million barrels, and seasonally adjusted they are now, for the first time this year, below 2016 levels.

Despite this, there were also signs that global oil markets remained amply supplied, capping further price rises.

"Crude oil prices face multiple headwinds as Opec struggles (to cut excess supply)," BNP said.

Oil output by Opec rose last month by 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a 2017-high of 33 million bpd, a Reuters survey found, led by a further recovery in supply from Libya, one of the countries exempt from a production-cutting deal.

This comes despite a pledge by Opec and other producers, including Russia, to cut output by 1.8 million bpd between January this year and March 2018.

* Reuters