Oil Prices Slip After Lower Than Expected Crude Draw

It is remarkable to see that most market analysts believe that prices have rallied too far since consensus forecasts are significantly lower than the current spot prices

Despite relatively high USA crude oil production, curtailments in production by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and robust global demand supported crude oil price increases in 2017.

Oil prices have been steadily rising since the major OPEC group of oil-producing nations, along with Russian Federation, agreed last autumn to maintain production cuts - credited with lifting prices past year as they intended.

Last year, most oil prices have recovered from trading below the $40 level due to the growing market hopes of the OPEC extending the deals again with oil prices touching near above the $50 per barrel price level if not for the sudden rise in USA crude inventories that offset the gains of crude oil prices.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose $1.23, or 2 percent, to settle at $62.96 a barrel after touching its highest since December 2014 at $63.24.

The price for Brent crude oil is up almost 2 percent since the first trading day of 2018 and showing few signs of slowing.

Brent for March settlement dipped 12 cents to $69.14/bbl on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange after rising above the $70/bbl threshold on Thursday for the first time since 2014.

Traders said political tensions in Iran, the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), had pushed prices higher.

Last November, OPEC together with Russian Federation and other countries extended the deal to reduce oil production, expecting the agreement to cover the entire 2018.

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Domestic crude production is up 6% year over year to about 9.5 million barrels a day, and that number is expected to rise to around average around 10 million barrels a day this year and should reach that level in the next month or two. OPEC member Venezuela's economic problems are affecting its production and exports, giving investors an opportunity to buy oil futures.

Oil had its strongest opening week for any year since 2013 last week as United States stockpiles continued to shrink and amid output curbs by the the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and its allies.

Thursday's rise was also bolstered by a surprise fall in USA oil stockpiles. US producers slowed down, cutting output by 290,000 barrels a day last week.

A Reuters survey of more than 1,000 energy professionals found they expected crude prices to remain in a range of $60 to $70 a barrel in 2018.

EIA estimates without pipeline constraints, moving crude oil from Cushing to the U.S. Gulf Coast typically costs roughly $3.50/Bbl.

Prices extended gains in post-settlement trade after industry group the American Petroleum Institute said crude inventories fell by 11.2 million barrels in the week to January 5 to 416.6 million, compared with analysts' expectations for a decrease of 3.9 million barrels.

Prices initially pulled back after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude stockpiles fell by 4.9 million barrels last week. It is not completely unexpected, given the price momentum. Asian oil prices are higher than in the rest of the world.

Still, prices resumed their upward trajectory, as investors focused on a drop in the amount of oil at the main storage hub in Oklahoma and a decline in USA oil production.

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