Reuters: Oil prices stable on strong Chinese imports, OPEC-led production cuts
Oil prices were stable on Friday, supported by strong Chinese crude imports and OPEC-led production cuts, although ample U.S. fuel inventories weighed on the market, according to Reuters.
Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark for oil prices, were trading at $55.68 per barrel at 0427 GMT, up 5 cents from their previous close, Reuters said.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were up 7 cents at $53.07 a barrel.
Read alsoUkraine's oil giant Ukrnafta forecasts 15% drop in output in 2017Traders said that strong Chinese crude import data was supporting prices on Friday.
China's crude imports in January rose 27.5 percent from a year earlier to the third-highest volume ever, suggesting robust demand despite disruptions from the Lunar New Year holiday.
China imported 34.03 million tonnes, or 8.01 million barrels per day (bpd), the General Administration of Customs reported on Friday. The imports were down from December's record 8.57 million bpd.
Despite this, both crude futures have traded within a $5 range since the beginning of the year, and this was due to competing price drivers.
"Oil prices continue to struggle to break out of the current range," ANZ bank said on Friday.
"The push and pull between competing forces in the crude oil market continued overnight. Despite the stronger U.S. dollar .DXY and lingering concerns about U.S. (oil) inventories, traders returned their focus to the OPEC production cuts being implemented at the moment," it added.
Read alsoReuters: OPEC agrees first output cut since 2008, Saudis to take 'big hit'The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers including Russia have agreed to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day during the first half of 2017 to rein in a global fuel supply overhang.
Initially, there was widespread scepticism that all producers would actually make the promised cuts, but compliance with the announced reductions is now estimated to be between 80 and 90 percent as OPEC's de-facto leader Saudi Arabia has enforced deep production cuts.
The next OPEC data is due to be released next week.
Despite the OPEC-led cuts, oil markets remain bloated as inventories, especially in the United States, are brimming and rising U.S. drilling activity is pushing up production there as well.
As a result, WTI and Brent crude oil futures are between 4 to 5 percent below their early January peaks.