Oil prices were up Friday morning in Asia, boosted by an unexpected decline in U.S. crude inventories.
Crude Oil WTI futures for April delivery were trading at $62.88 a barrel in Asia by 06:38 am GMT, up 0.18%. Brent crude futures for April delivery, traded in London, were up 0.30% at $66.45 per barrel.
U.S. crude inventories had been forecast to rise 1.8 million barrels. But as net imports fell to a record low while exports surged, crude stockpiles saw an unexpected decline by 1.6 million barrels last week. Inventories dropped further at the key storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The drop at Cushing was because prompt crude prices were higher than forward prices, discouraging storage as it makes more sense to liquidate on-hand inventories.
Meanwhile, U.S. crude exports jumped to more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd), close to the record 2.1 million bpd in October. The production increase is steady, and the U.S. is set to overtake Russia in crude oil output by late 2018, making it the largest global supplier.
The largest privately owned crude terminal in the U.S., the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), recently completed the first very large crude carrier (VLCC) crude oil loading operation. The supercarriers can ship around 2 million barrels of oil.
This timely development comes as demand for oil continues to surge in Asia, especially China.
A drop in the U.S. currency from an eight-day peak also supported oil prices, as dollar-denominated oil is now cheaper for other countries to import.
Strengthened by healthy demand growth in Asia, oil prices are slowly inching closer to the highs of the beginning of February. WTI started February at $65.80 and Brent started at $69.65