Oil buoyed by drop in number of USA drilling rigs

Oil prices up following crude inventories' fall

The market has rallied in recent weeks as investors bet on an increasingly tighter market, aided by data showing declining USA stockpiles and threats to supply from major producers such as Iran and Venezuela.

Brent crude futures were at US$67.78 a barrel, 16 cents U.S. above their last close.

Analysts say United States output may have levelled off over the holidays.

"This is a little more confirmation of what speculators have been looking for and after tomorrow's (U.S. government inventory) report, we'll see if they look to do some profit taking".

OPEC has no formal target for oil prices.

Oil buoyed by drop in number of USA drilling rigs

"Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are not keen on increased Brent crude prices above $60 a barrel because of shale oil", Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in comments on the ministry's news agency Shana.

"We expect oil demand growth to outpace non-OPEC supply growth in both 2018 and 2019", Standard Chartered analysts said in a note.

"Production cuts and demand are continuing to rebalance the market". A weekly decline in the number of USA drilling rigs led both contracts to a higher close on Monday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/api-data-reportedly-show-a-weekly-drop-in-us-crude-supplies-2018-01-03).

There is no sign yet that OPEC is prepared to relax its supply restraint.

Nationwide output will average 10.85 million barrels a day next year and 10.27 million this year, both surpassing the prior record of 9.6 million pumped in 1970, the Energy Information Administration said in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook, which included the first estimates for 2019.

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The surge comes as a welcome boost for the revenues of oil-producing nations, many still reeling from a price collapse that started in mid-2014 when crude began to fall steeply from above $100 per barrel due to oversupply.

"Led by US production, particularly the Permian Basin, and now new oil sands projects in Canada, non-OPEC production is forecast to continue growing through the end of 2019", John Conti, the agency's acting administrator, said in a statement.

However, Innes added that Middle East turmoil would remain a key focus for oil markets and had the potential to "send oil prices rocketing higher".

However, some analysts believe market participants are getting to optimistic, especially given expectations for an increase in USA shale production.

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