Saudi February crude oil exports drop to 21-month low

Saudi February crude oil exports drop to 21-month low

US crude oil production rose to 9.25 million barrels per day, official data showed, up nearly 10 percent since mid-2016. Oil prices will increase as demand improves, chipping away at oil inventories in the second half, he said.

The sharp drop also came on the back of recent data, including a 13th consecutive weekly rise in US rigs drilling for oil and a forecast for higher domestic shale output in May, that imply the USA will continue to add to global supplies even as OPEC and its allies curb production under a six-month pact that kicked in at the start of the year.

Last week the prices of oil had gone past $53 a barrel following the push by some producers to extend the OPEC supply cut deal by the more than 6 months that had been settled on.

According to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report, U.S. crude supplies fell 1 million barrels in the most recent week, a smaller decline than expected. U.S. West Texas Intermediate slipped 17 cents to $52.24 a barrel as of 10:49 a.m. EDT (1449 GMT), while Brent dropped 14 cents to $54.75 a barrel.

Both benchmarks had traded more than 50 cents higher earlier in the day, but gains eased at the start of USA trading hours.

James Williams, president of energy consultant WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said the minister's bullish statement did not lift prices much because of growing USA shale production. Gasoline stocks posted a counter-seasonal build of 1.5 million barrels, despite heavier refining activity.The surprise gasoline build, along with an increase in US production and imports from OPEC nations, pressured prices.

"The market sentiment appears to be that the increase in USA shale production outweighs the OPEC action and the market is keeping the loss we had yesterday", he said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' kingpin Saudi Arabia said the cartel is likely to reach an agreement next month to extend its production cuts.

Thirteen members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and 11 non-OPEC members agreed to cut production by about 1.8 million barrels a day to prop up oil prices in December a year ago.

USA gasoline stocks posted a counter-seasonal build of 1.5 million barrels, because of rising refining activity.

"With questions hanging over US gasoline demand, any further product builds will act as a brake on the oil price recovery", he said.