Crude futures maintained losses Friday after oil-field services firm Baker Hughes Inc.(BHI) said the number of USA rigs drilling for oil rose by 5 this week to 602.
"The oil market remains focused on the global rebalancing act, with attention centered on OPEC compliance and US production growth", said Michael Tran, director of energy strategy at RBC Capital Markets in NY. Prices on Thursday rose 86 cents to close at $54.45, the highest settlement since July 2, 2015. U.S. light crude was 70 cents higher at $54.29 a barrel.
Analysts from Goldman Sachs Group Inc to Energy Aspects Ltd have said United States stockpiles were boosted by deliveries of crude purchased before oil producers started cutting output in January.
West Texas Intermediate for April delivery was at US$53.99 a barrel, down 46 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 12.43pm in London. Total volume traded was about 30 percent below the 100-day average.
Benchmark Brent crude oil was trading at around $57.02 per barrel on Friday.
Crude imports to the USA fell 14 percent to an average 7.29 million barrels a day for the week ended February 17, compared with 8.49 million barrels in the previous week, according to preliminary EIA data.
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The commercial crude stocks in the U.S. (excluding the strategic reserve) have increased by 9.5 million barrels or 1.9 percent and stood at 518.1 million barrels over the week ending Feb.10.
Crude oil prices moved lower on Friday, and remains range bound, unable to break out despite continued compliance from OPEC.
US crude production at 9 million barrels a day last week was the highest level since early April 2016, according to the EIA data. Oil exports from the world's biggest economy surged to a record and domestic production rose to 9 million barrels a day last week.
Supply watch: While the amount of oil in storage increased for seven straight weeks to hit new records, the 564,000 barrel increase reported by the EIA was far short of the 3.4 million barrel addition anticipated by analysts and traders surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.
While OPEC has agreed to shoulder 1.2 million bpd of the cut starting in January, the non-OPEC countries pledged to reduce their output by 558,000 bpd.