US crude stocks drop 4.6 mln bbls

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Unlike the recently slowing increases in US exports of crude oil, distillate fuel, and motor gasoline, propane export growth has accelerated. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 71 cents, or 1.1%, to $66.87 a barrel. By comparison, production is now only higher in Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia. EIA forecasts total US crude oil production will average 9.2 million barrels a day for all of 2017 and 10 million barrels a day in 2018, which would mark the highest annual average production, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million barrels a day set in 1970. That could undermine plans by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and and other producers, including Russian Federation, who have pledged to extend production curbs through the end of 2018 to wipe out a global glut.

Trading was typically thin at year end, with many traders on vacation.

The third quarter of 2017 represented the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth in capital expenditures and cash from operations for these 47 companies, according to the EIA.

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Worldwide benchmark Brent crude futures ended the year with a 17 percent rise, supported by ongoing supply cuts by top producers OPEC and Russian Federation as well as strong demand from China. It was at a premium of $6.45 to March WTI. Inventories are down by nearly 20 percent from historic highs last March, and well below this time previous year or in 2015. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $60.16 a barrel at 0210 GMT, up 33 cents or 0.5 percent from their last close.

Oil prices rebounded from earlier losses on Wednesday after data showed a larger-than-expected falloff in us crude inventories, a salve for investors after several days of declines on worries about the slow pace of global efforts to reduce a glut. A survey by the Wall Street Journal showed expectations for a decline of 3.7 million barrels for the week.

Oil prices ended the year above $60 a barrel on Friday, a milestone not seen in more than two years, in another sign that a longstanding global glut is easing.

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Another possible risk for oil prices in the new year: President Donald Trump's trade agenda.

Meanwhile, a weak dollar also supported the oil markets on Friday.

"If there is a bearish wildcard out there, that's it", O'Grady said in a phone interview.

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