Oil Set for Biggest Weekly Gain in 2017 as OPEC Eyes Extension

Azerbaijan Interested in Extension of Oil Output Cut Deal - Energy Ministry

Azerbaijan deems extension of Vienna agreement acceptable – ministry

Futures in NY were little changed after rising 2.4 percent Wednesday, when US government data showed that gasoline inventories dropped more than expected.

Opec, along with other producers including Russian Federation, aims to cut output by nearly 1.8 million bpd during the first half of the year.

"If a similar picture is painted by the official data, the oil price should be able to hold its own at well above the $50 per barrel mark until the OPEC production estimates for March are released", analysts at Commerzbank said.

Still, over the past week, a growing consensus has emerged that the supply cut would be extended into the second half of the year - and that Russian Federation would increasingly comply.

The participants, some of whom represented US oil producers, expect that this level of exports can be sustained, and will increase in coming years as shale producers, particularly those in the Permian basin ramp up output, given they can be profitable at prices as low as $40 a barrel. Riyadh sees its alliance with Moscow on oil policy as a cornerstone to its efforts to stabilize oil prices at a $50 to $60 target range over the medium term.

In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 11 cents, 0.22 percent, at $50.24 a barrel.

Crude oil stockpiles data from both the American Petroleum Institute and the Energy Information Administration indicated a smaller than expected increase in inventories, easing fears of market oversupply.

Refinery runs rose 329,000 barrels per day as utilization rates jumped 2.3 percentage points to 87.4% of capacity, led by higher runs at Gulf Coast and Midwest refiners.

"The initial liquidation in net long positions is a concern; it reflects weaker market confidence in oil prices, amid rising USA shale investment and production", said Cailin Birch, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Futures advanced 5.5 per cent in NY this week, climbing back above US$50 (RM220) a barrel after Kuwait Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq reiterated support for prolonging a six-month deal to trim supply past June.

Front-month Brent crude futures, the Global benchmark for oil, rose 29 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $51.62 per barrel by 0653 GMT. Year to date, WTI crude futures trade down by around 10%.

Several teapots have also maxed out their import quotas, meaning they won't be able to place new orders until it is confirmed they will receive more quotas from the government mid-year.

With crude prices stuck below $50 a barrel, there are likely to be some investors and traders who are waiting/hoping that new production from USA shale plays will stop or, even better, begin to contract.

That may be hard to envision in 2017 when the market is still trying to find a home for a few hundred million barrels of oil sitting in storage.

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"It looks like they will potentially extend the cuts", Mark Watkins, the Park City, Utah-based regional investment manager for the Private Client Group at U.S. Bank, which oversees $136 billion in assets, said by telephone.

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