Crude oil steady after mixed US inventory report

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NEW YORK: Oil was little changed on Thursday following two straight days of gains that took oil futures to highs not seen in a year, after weekly U.S. crude stocks fell sharply while fuel inventories rose more than expected.

Brent futures for August delivery fell 16 cents to $71.19 a barrel, a 0.2% loss, by 2:05 a.m. EDT (1805 GMT). U.S. crude fell 18 cents to $68.69 per barrel.

Brent crude touched its highest since September 2019 at $71.99 earlier in the session. WTI prices rose as high as $69.40, the strongest since October 2018, after gaining 1.5% in the previous session.

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U.S. crude inventories fell by 5.1 million barrels last week, compared with expectations for a decrease of 2.4 million barrels, while gasoline stocks grew by 1.5 million barrels and distillate stockpiles jumped by 3.7 million barrels.

“They burned through a lot of crude oil though, and we had builds in gasoline and distillate,” Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “You don’t want to be burning that much crude and then the customers don’t want it.”

Oil prices have risen in recent days on expectations from forecasters, including the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, that oil demand will exceed supply in the second half of 2021.

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OPEC+ agreed on Tuesday to continue with plans to ease supply curbs through July, giving oil prices a boost, in anticipation of improved consumption.

The OPEC+ meeting lasted 20 minutes, the quickest in the group’s history, suggesting strong compliance among members and the conviction that demand will recover once the COVID-19 pandemic shows sign of abating.

Also supporting prices was a slowdown in talks between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, which reduced expectations for a return of Iranian oil supplies to the market this year.

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