Oil prices fall as US crude output hits 12m bpd

Oil off this year's highs as U.S. crude stocks and supply grows

US crude oil inventories increase last week: API - Xinhua | English.news.cn

Analysts say US output will rise further and that oil firms will export more oil to sell off surplus stocks.

The number of rigs operating in US oil fields fell four to 853 this week, and is up 54 from a year ago, according to the weekly data released Friday by the Baker Hughes, a Houston-based oilfield services company.

"We see total USA crude production hitting 13 million bpd by year-end, with 2019 averaging 12.5 million bpd", U.S.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures fell 17 cents to $56.99 a barrel by 10:26 a.m. EST (1526 GMT) after touching a 2019 high of $57.55 the previous day.

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The main factor keeping oil prices from rising even further is soaring United States oil production, which rose by more than 2 million bpd a year ago, to a record 11.9 million bpd. Global stocks ticked up Friday and US stocks were also pointed higher, with most major benchmarks remained on course to close out the week higher on the back of investor optimism that the USA and China could soon reach a deal to resolve their continuing trade dispute.

Prices, however, remained just below 2019 peaks reached earlier this week as USA crude oil production hit a record 12 million barrels per day (bpd) and its exports also surged.

For now, at least, the price dips have halted a rally that pushed crude to 2019 highs this week amid supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Analysts say US oil firms will export more oil to sell off surplus stocks.

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The U.S. notched the new export record despite China halting imports of American crude in recent months amid a trade dispute with Washington. Yesterday, the market was rather dead, volume was low and USA data on crude and products was mixed, so the market didn't really react, "Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix consultancy said".

Crude inventories rose by 3.7 million barrels in the week to February 15, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 3.1 million barrels.

Oil prices hovered around 2019 highs on Thursday, bolstered by OPEC-led supply cuts and USA sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, but were capped by slowing growth in the global economy.

"After the recent Fed Minutes, the US dollar has sold off, lifting crude oil on news the Fed plans to hold off on rate hikes, and balance sheet reduction", he said. OPEC and 10 allied producers outside the cartel, led by Russian Federation, agreed in late December to collectively hold back output by 1.2 million barrels day for the first half of 2019.

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Goldman Sachs said in a note that it expects Opec output to average 31.1-million bpd in 2019, down from 31.9-million bpd.

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