* Libyan oil production reportedly down to 500,000 bpd
* U.S. crude stocks at new record, but gasoline inventories
* OPEC compliance with announced production cut increases
* But doubts remain over Russian compliance
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE, March 30 Oil prices were steady on
Thursday, supported by falling crude output in Libya and
declining gasoline stocks in the United States, although bloated
U.S. crude inventories are still weighing on markets.
Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the
international benchmark for oil, were at $52.42 per barrel at
0040 GMT, unchanged from their last close.
In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude
futures were up 5 cents at $49.57 a barrel.
ANZ said on Thursday that prices were supported by Libyan
oil output falling to about 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to
the shutdown of pipelines from its biggest field.
And while a rise in U.S. crude inventories weighed on
markets, ANZ said that "the market got excited" about a drawdown
in gasoline stockpiles.
"The big falls in gasoline inventories, coming near the end
of the refinery maintenance season, suggest crude oil
inventories are on the cusp of declining," it said.
U.S. crude inventories rose 867,000 barrels in
the week ending March 24, compared with analyst expectations for
an increase of 1.4 million barrels. Total inventories were at a
record of nearly 534 million barrels, the Energy Information
Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.
Gasoline stocks fell 3.7 million barrels,
compared with expectations for a 1.9-million barrel drop.
Key for the direction of oil prices will be whether an
initiative led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) to cut oil production during the first half of
the year will be extended, and how high compliance with the
reduction targets will be.
OPEC, along with other producers including Russia, aims to
cut output by almost 1.8 million bpd during the first half of
OPEC compliance with its targets is expected to be 95
percent this month, up from 94 percent in February, according to
However, compliance is lower by non-OPEC members like
Russia, who have officially agreed to participate in the cuts.
"Russia's 300,000 bpd cut commitment particularly has been
called into question," Eurasia Group said this week in a
"While it remains possible Russia can scrape together a
combination of outages and natural decline at some west Siberian
brownfields and spin this as a 300,000-bpd output cut, it is
highly unlikely Russia will achieve an absolute 300,000 bpd
reduction during the tenure of the current agreement," it added.
As markets remain bloated halfway into the cuts, there is a
broad expectation that the supply cuts will be extended into the
second half of the year.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford)