Another Record Week for US Oil Exports as Production Surges

OPEC and a group of 14 other exporters, including Russian Federation, decided late previous year to take a total of 1.76 million barrels per day (bpd) off the market to boost oil prices.

Prices were also pressured by book squaring ahead of the weekend and upcoming February 28 expirations in Brent futures for April delivery, heating oil for March delivery, and March RBOB gasoline, analysts and traders said.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate was unchanged at $54.45 a barrel by 0526 GMT, pulling back from early losses.

While OPEC appears to be sticking to its deal, producers that were not part of the deal, particularly US shale drillers, have increased output, driving the growth in inventories in the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer. That compares to a $3.76 premium a year ago.

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Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the biggest USA storage hub and the delivery point for WTI, dropped by 1.53 million barrels, the steepest decline since October of previous year. United States crude oil inventories rose 0.1% week-over-week and 9% year-over-year.

"The sharp decline in the pace of builds was driven by lower imports", said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst Energy Aspects in London.

"The oil market remains focused on the global rebalancing act, with attention centered on OPEC compliance and US production growth", said Michael Tran, director of energy strategy at RBC Capital Markets in NY.

Iran was exempted from the production cut as Tehran argued its output should be allowed to recover after the lifting of worldwide sanctions in January a year ago.

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It remains to be seen how much longer the members will remain compliant under the looming threat of USA oil.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and producers including Russian Federation have pledged to cut production by around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to tackle a global glut that has kept prices depressed since 2014.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers outside the group, including Russian Federation, announced late previous year that they would cut output by nearly 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) during the first half of 2017, looking to drain a glut that pulled down prices from over $100 per barrel in 2014 to around $56.50 now (LCOc1).

While prices extended gains by more than 2 percent soon after the inventory data was released, much of those advances dissipated over the next 30 minutes.

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