Oil prices edge up on signs of tightening market


Oil markets edged up on Friday, recovering some of the previous day’s losses, as analysts pointed to signs of a tightening market.

Brent crude futures , the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $57.31 at 0027 GMT, up 8 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.41 per barrel, up 12 cents, or 0.2 percent.

The slightly higher prices came after bigger falls in the previous session, which market watchers put down to profit-taking following four days of straight gains, as well as the notion that the risks to supplies due to fighting between Iraqi government forces and Kurdish militia were overblown.

“Reports that there has been little damage to oil infrastructure in Kurdistan did see some of this week’s geopolitical risk premium unwound,” ANZ bank said on Friday.

Analysts also said there were indicators of a tightening market.

U.S. commercial crude oil stocks have dropped 15 percent from their March records, to 456.5 million barrels, to below levels seen last year.

Part of this drawdown has been due to rising exports as a result of the steep discount of WTI crude to Brent, which makes it attractive for American producers to export their oil. <CL-LCO1=R>

RBC Capital Markets said, “A strong indicator that global inventories are being run down will be when the market starts relying on U.S. exports to fill deficits.”

That moment may have arrived.

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that overseas U.S. crude oil shipments have soared from virtually zero before the government loosened export restrictions in late 2015 to around 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in October.

Exports were further boosted since a production cut led by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has been in place since January this year.

“Physical bottlenecks are unlikely to kick in until waterborne (U.S.) exports approach 3.2 million bpd,” RBC Capital Markets said.