Oil traded near the highest close in more than two weeks after crude stockpiles in the world’s largest economy slid more than forecast to a two-year low.
Futures fell 0.1 percent in New York after settling on Wednesday at the highest since Dec. 1. U.S. inventories fell 6.5 million barrels last week — more than double the average estimate in a Bloomberg survey — to the lowest level since 2015, government data showed. Prices slid slightly after a North Sea pipeline operator said that the critical Forties Pipeline System, halted on Dec. 11 by a hairline crack, would return to normal in early January.
Oil is heading for a second yearly advance after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia decided to prolong production curbs through the end of 2018, with the goal of returning global stockpiles to their five-year average. Inventories won’t be “anywhere close” to the level targeted by OPEC when it meets in June, Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabian oil minister said in an interview.
“The good news is that total commercial stocks and crude oil inventories both fell,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London.
West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was at $58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 9 cents, at 12:37 p.m. in London. Total volume traded was about 58 percent below the 100-day average. The contract gained 0.9 percent on Wednesday.
Brent for February settlement fell 10 cents to $64.46 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange after adding 1.2 percent Wednesday. The global benchmark traded at a premium of $6.48 to WTI.
U.S. crude inventories slipped to 436.5 million barrels last week, while oil exports jumped by 772,000 barrels a day, the biggest increase on record, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, gasoline stockpiles climbed 1.24 million barrels, the smallest gain in four weeks, and distillate supplies increased by 769,000 barrels.