Oil prices were stable on Wednesday as OPEC said it was committed to drawing down a global supply overhang that has dogged markets since 2014, although bloated U.S. output and inventories still weighed on crude. Brent crude futures were at $54.92 per barrel at 0741 GMT, close to its last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were also almost unchanged at $52.43 a barrel.
Traders said prices were supported by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) secretary general, who said the group was committed to restoring market stability by bringing global inventories down to the industry’s five-year average. OPEC, together with other producers like Russia, has agreed to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (BPD) during the first half of the year to rein in a global fuel supply overhang that has dragged on markets since mid-2014.
A fall in shipments from top exporter Saudi Arabia also lent the market some support. Saudi crude exports fell to 6.96 million BPD in February, from 7.7 million BPD in January, according to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI). Its production, however, rose to 10 million BPD in February, up from 9.75 million BPD in January, as domestic refiners processed more oil.
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In politics, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a review of whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran under a 2015 nuclear deal was in the United States’ national security interests. Many U.S. sanctions against Iran were lifted in late 2015, allowing Tehran to more than double its crude oil exports over 2016, adding to the existing global glut.
Data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) on Tuesday showed that U.S. markets remained bloated. Although crude inventories fell by 840,000 barrels in the week to April 14 to 531.6 million barrels, they still held near record highs, while gasoline stocks rose by 1.4 million barrels as refinery runs increased by 334,000 bpd, the API said.
The API reported surprisingly that gasoline inventories increased, while crude oil stocks fell by less than expected, said Sukrit Vijayakar, director of energy consultancy Trifecta. “Unless the (EIA) data shows something drastically different, this report should cause a severe dent in the bullish case (for oil prices),” Vijayakar said.
Official U.S. oil data is expected to be published later on Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue)