Oil Prices Prolong Gains after Decline in U.S. Stockpiles

On Thursday, crude oil prices increased in early Asian trading, lengthening gains from the prior session after official data indicated U.S. stockpiles had eased from record highs.

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On Thursday, crude oil prices increased in early Asian trading, lengthening gains from the prior session after official data indicated U.S. stockpiles had eased from record highs.

On Wednesday, the prices increased after a skid of market reports and official data offered some expectation that a near three-year global surplus in oil is coming to an end, albeit more slowly than many expected.

The market was also afloat after the Fed Reserve increased interest rates in line with expectations but did not indicate any pick-up in the pace of further increases.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude increased  31 cents, or 0.6%, at $49.17 a barrel by 0202 GMT, having increased 2.4% in the prior session, its first surge in eight days.

Brent futures increased 35 cents, or 0.7%, to $52.16. They had their first surge in seven days on Wednesday, gaining 1.7%.

The benchmarks have bounced off their lowest levels since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed at the end of the previous year to reduce crude output, with an initial price surge evaporating as stockpiles stayed high.

Global oil inventories increased for the first time in six months in January, in spite of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) deal, the International Energy Agency stated in its monthly oil report on Wednesday.

However,  data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicated U.S. crude  stocks declined last week, the first weekly drop after nine straight surges.

Crude inventories dropped  237,000 barrels during the week to March 10. Analysts had forecast a surges of 3.7 million barrels.

The inventories have been carefully observed by oil traders to decide whether the OPEC agreement to cut production  is reducing the global surplus.

“Inventories are the barometer of global oil market rebalancing,” Bernstein Energy said in a note on Thursday.

“While the large (global) inventory build seems counter-intuitive given the cuts to OPEC supply, there are good reasons for this,” Bernstein said, citing seasonal declines in demand, time lags between cuts and deliveries and traders tapping floating storage.

Oil bulls were also encouraged after the IEA said demand should overtake supply in the first half of current  year.

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