Overnight, prices settled higher after data showing US oil supplies rose less than expected offset bearish product inventories data.
Inventories of U.S. crude rose by 1.841 million barrels for the week ended Feb. 9, below expectations for for a rise of 2.825 million barrels.
Gasoline inventories – one of the products that crude is refined into – rose by 3.599 million barrels, well above the expectations for a build of 1.229 million barrels, while supplies of distillate – the class of fuels that includes diesel and – fell by 459,000 barrels, less than the 1.130 million barrels forecast.
The sharp build in gasoline inventories comes amid a slowdown in refinery activity as refiners enter a period of maintenance. That, however, hasn’t led to a faster pace of crude stockpiles in recent weeks.
Also supporting crude prices were supportive comments from Saudi oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, who said that OPEC would continue to curb production even if that would result in a supply shortage. “If we have to overbalance the market a little bit, then so be it,” Al-Falih said.
His comments come a day after the Energy International Agency’s gloomy monthly report stoked investor fears that rising US oil output would derail OPEC’s efforts to rebalance the market. “All the indicators that suggest continued fast growth in the US are in perfect alignment; rising prices leading, after a few months, to more drilling, more completions, more production, and more hedging,” the IEA’s report stated.
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