Brent nears $72 amid tightening supplies; surprise draw in US crude stocks

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"The latest weekly statistics on USA oil inventories were seemingly positive".

Oil futures edged up on Thursday as a drop in crude exports from OPEC's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, and a draw in US drilling rigs and oil inventories supported prices.

Brent crude rallied to its highest level this year early in the session, bolstered by an unexpected drop in US crude inventories reported by trade group the American Petroleum Institute late on Tuesday.

According to the API data, United States crude oil inventory fell 3.09 million barrels for the week ending April 12 th.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell 362,000 barrels, also not as much as forecasts for a 846,000-barrel drawdown, the EIA data showed. "You're going to need another catalyst".

Global benchmark Brent crude futures were up 34 cents, or 0.47 per cent, at $72.06 by 11.30 GMT, having hit an intraday peak of $72.27.

Brent ended Monday's session at $71.18 per barrel, down 37 cents, or 0.5 percent; West Texas Intermediate fell 49 cents, or 0.8 percent, to settle at $63.40 per barrel.

Indeed, one sure sign that prices may go higher is the discontent expressed by Bijan Zanganeh, oil minister for Iran, who complained to Tasnim news agency that "Oil prices are increasing every day: that shows the market is anxious".

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Crude continued to be supported by steady economic growth in China.

Surging U.S. production has filled some of the gap in supplies, although not all of the lost production can be immediately replaced by U.S. shale oil due to refinery configurations. "So a repeat of 2014 [oil-price crash] could present itself if Saudi Arabia does not manage to convince major producers to keep the production cuts active".

Refinery throughput in China - the world's second-largest crude user - rose 3.2 per cent in March from a year earlier to 12.49 million barrels per day (bpd). "China trade dispute, is limiting price gains", Kumar said.

WTI is up more than 40 percent this year and Brent up more than 30 percent, on the back of a deal between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies including Russian Federation to limit their output by 1.2 million barrels per day starting January.

Sanctions on Venezuela and the approaching expiration of USA waivers for importers of Iranian oil have also contributed to supply jitters, analysts said.

Iran's crude exports have fallen in April to their lowest daily level this year, tanker data showed and industry sources said, suggesting a reduction in buyer interest ahead of expected further pressure from Washington.

USA sanctions on two other members, Iran and Venezuela, are already cutting shipments.

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