Oil prices rose on Thursday, helped by gains in USA equities markets and Saudi Arabia's unexpected hike in crude prices, though crude's advance was curbed by strength in the dollar.
At 1005 GMT, ICE June Brent crude futures were at $67.92/b, up a touch from Monday's $67.64/b settle, while the NYMEX May light sweet crude contract was at $63.27/b, against Monday's $63.01/b settle. Prices erased most of their losses on Wednesday after data showed supplies stored in US tanks shrank the most since January, in contrast to a forecast for a 2 million-barrel gain.
Oil prices steadied on Thursday as an easing of trade tensions between the USA and China and a surprise draw in U.S. crude inventories last week supported the market.
The oil price drop came even as the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said late Tuesday that US crude inventories fell by 3.3 million barrels last week.
The trade spat between the U.S. and China has also been escalating, with China replying with tariffs on some US$50 billions of USA imports after the White House announced more tariffs on Chinese products last week; the potential trade war has been rattling financial markets, especially in Asia.
Brent crude futures fell $1.23 on the day to $66.89 a barrel by 0918 GMT, bringing losses for the week so far to almost 5 percent.
Crude oil prices lacked clear direction in early Thursday trading as markets balanced between declining US inventories and potential trade war fears.
West Texas Intermediate for May delivery was at $62.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down $1.13, at 11 a.m.in London, after rising 50 cents on Tuesday. Prices slipped 10 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $68.02 Wednesday.
USA crude production hit a new high, but that was not enough to change the overall bullishness of the report, said Baruch.
According to the Weekly Petroleum Status Report, U.S. commercial crude oil inventories, excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, of the week ending March 30, decreased by 4.6 million barrels from the previous week.
OPEC and non-OPEC producers are still committed to cut output by 1.8M barrels per day this year.
The decline in United States stockpiles has boosted optimism that surging shale output may not thwart Opec's efforts to drain a glut.
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