Oil nears 2019 highs spurred by OPEC production cuts

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Both oil benchmarks have risen this year after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russian Federation, began to cut output to prevent a supply glut from growing.

By 1125 GMT, US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were up 51 cents at $57.48 per barrel but still shy of this week's $57.55 per barrel 2019 high.

International Brent crude futures were at $67.18 per barrel at 1019 GMT, eight cents above their last close, but below $67.38 per barrel reached earlier this week.

-China trade negotiations. In the meantime, the OPEC-led supply cuts continue to underpin prices.

Oil prices reached their highest levels since mid-November on Friday, boosted by hopefulness that the United States and China would soon reach a trade deal, but new record US oil supply limited gains.

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"There is a growing confidence that global oil inventories will start depleting soon, mainly due to falling OPEC production", said PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga.

According to the EIA, total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.5 million barrels last week, but still about 4 percent above the five-year average for this time of the year. "Anything positive today on trade talks will boost the oil price".

USA crude stocks rose 3.7 million barrels in the week to February 15, to 454.5 million barrels, the highest since October 2017, even as crude exports surged 1.2 million barrels per day to a record 3.6 million bpd.

Nigeria on Wednesday pledged its cooperation to reduce oil output in order to attract higher prices in the global market.

Production in the United States, which previous year became the world's top crude producer, rose to record high at 12 million bpd.

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USA crude oil production reached 12 million bpd for the first time last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday in a weekly report.

On Tuesday, EIA forecast output from seven major US shale fields will rise by 84,000 bpd next month to 8.4 million bpd.

OPEC and its de facto leader Saudi Arabia agreed late past year, along with producer allies such as Russian Federation, to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day to prevent a supply overhang from growing.

Analysts say US output will rise further and that oil firms will export more oil to sell off surplus stocks.

Brent crude futures fell 1 cent to settle at $67.07 after hitting a 2019 peak on Wednesday at $67.38. Goldman said it expected an average Brent price of $60-$65 per barrel in 2019 and 2020.

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