Investing.com – Crude prices held near their strongest levels since late 2014 on Monday, amid ongoing optimism that OPEC-led output cuts would continue to drain the market of excess supplies.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) inched up 19 cents, or 0.3%, from their last close to $66.33 a barrel by 3:35AM ET (0835GMT). The U.S. benchmark reached its best level since Dec. 4, 2014 at $66.66 last Thursday.
Meanwhile, futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., declined 11 cents, or roughly 0.2%, to $70.04 a barrel. The contract touched $70.78 on Thursday, a level not seen since Dec. 2014.
WTI crude gained 4.4% last week, while Brent rose about 2.8%, the fifth such rise in six weeks.
Oil prices have risen almost 60% from around $43 a barrel in June, benefiting from production cut efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia. The producers agreed in December to extend current oil output cuts until the end of 2018.
The deal to cut oil output by 1.8 million barrels a day (bpd) was adopted last winter by OPEC, Russia and nine other global producers. The agreement was due to end in March 2018, having already been extended once.
Analysts and traders have recently warned that U.S. shale oil producers could ramp up production as they look to take advantage of higher prices, potentially derailing OPEC’s effort to curb excess supply.
The number of oil drilling rigs climbed by 12 to 759 last week, General Electric (NYSE:)’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday. That marked the biggest weekly increase in the rig count since March.
Domestic U.S. output has rebounded by almost 17% since the most recent low in mid-2016, and increasing drilling activity for new production means output is expected to grow further, as producers are attracted by climbing prices.
U.S. oil production rose to 9.87 million barrels per day last week, according to government data released during the week, the highest level since the early 1970s and close to the output of top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia.
In the week ahead, market participants will eye fresh weekly information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products on Tuesday and Wednesday to gauge the strength of demand in the world’s largest oil consumer.
In other energy trading, held steady at $1.925 a gallon, while shed 0.4% to $2.119 a gallon.
sank 7.9 cents, or 2.5%, to $3.095 per million British thermal units, as updated weather forecasting models called for milder weather next week.
The commodity soared about 10% last week, as traders reacted to a blast of cold weather which upped demand for the heating fuel.
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