US Crude Oil Inventories Have Fallen ~10.6% in 2017

Oil hits highest close since June 2015

West Texas Intermediate, the United States benchmark, is now trading at the highest level since mid-2015, pushed above $60 a barrel by a severe cold snap in the northeastern U.S. that spiked demand for heating fuel. Brent crude futures fell 11 cents to $66.33 a barrel.

OIL prices edged up yesterday, remaining near 2-1/2-year highs after data showed strong demand for crude imports in China and on increased U.S. refining activity that drew more crude from inventories.

Earlier in the week, Brent rose to $64.65 a barrel, its highest since June 2015, and WTI rose to $57.92, its highest since July 2015. Inventories excluding the nation's strategic reserve have declined more than 11% in the previous year.

A Reuters monthly poll showed analysts expect Brent crude to stay close to $60 in 2018.

USA output is still up by nearly 16% since mid-2016, but most analysts had expected production to break through 10 million bpd by the end of this year-a level only surpassed by top exporter Saudi Arabia and top producer Russian Federation.

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Although U.S. shale drillers are now exhibiting restraint, speculation is rising that they will put more rigs into operation next year as oil strengthens: Gene McGillian, a market research manager at Tradition Energy, pointed out that "With that partially offsetting production cuts by OPEC and Russian Federation, the market will have to get confirmation that global inventories will keep coming down".

There are also expectations in the market that OPEC's next meeting on November 30 will agree to extend cuts beyond the current expiry date in March 2018.

Based on total expected quotas, China's imports-which at around 8.5 million bpd are already the world's biggest-are expected to hit another record in 2018 as new refining capacity is brought on stream and Beijing allows more independent refiners to import crude.

Libyan oil supplies were disrupted by an attack on a pipeline this week and flows towards the port of Es Sider were reduced by about 70,000 bpd today.

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