Oil Prices Peak at $67/Barrel, Highest Since May 2015

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Prices of Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude futures peaked Thursday to a near two-and-a-half year high briefly before sagging by some cents at the international oil market.

While the Brent crude futures dropped to $66.27 a barrel, after breaking through $67 for the first time since May 2015, the United States West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $59.53 a barrel.

WTI broke through $60 a barrel for the first time since June 2015 in the previous session.

Analysts had predicted that the rally would fizzle shortly after it occurred. Libya, one of the major suppliers on Tuesday had lost around 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil supplies from a blast on a pipeline feeding Es Sider port.

In a related development that impacted negatively on market supplies yesterday, Forties was pumping at half its normal capacity and its operator was pledging to resume full flows in early January.

The head of Libyan state oil firm, NOC, told Reuters yesterday that the repair of the damaged pipeline could take about one week but will not have a major impact on exports.

The Libyan outage added to supply disruptions of recent weeks, which also included the closure of Britain’s largest Forties pipeline.

The Forties and Libyan outages, which together amount to around 500,000 bpd, are relatively small in a global context of both production and demand approaching 100 million bpd.

Over the past year, oil markets have tightened significantly following the voluntary supply restraint led by the Middle East-dominated Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC Russia.

Available statistical data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reflected that following rampant oversupply in 2015, global oil markets gradually came into balance by 2016 and started to show a slight supply deficit this year.

The EIA data implies a slight supply shortfall of 180,000 bpd for the first quarter of 2018.

OPEC had at their November 30, 2017 meeting agreed to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018 as part of the global efforts to eliminate excess oil supply in the international market.

The current deal, under which OPEC and non-OPEC producers are cutting supply by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in an effort to boost oil prices, expires in March 2018.

But the organisation in their last meeting had agreed to extend the cuts by nine months until the end of 2018, as largely anticipated by the market.

The decision to extend the production cuts saw crude oil prices rising, with the global benchmark Brent trading briefly at a two and a half year high at $67 per barrel yesterday.

However, a major factor countering efforts by OPEC and Russia efforts to prop up prices is US oil production which has soared more than 16 per cent since mid-2016 and is fast approaching 10 million bpd.



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