September 19, 2018 / 1:07 AM / 2 months ago

U.S. oil prices surge as inventory draw adds to supply concerns

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. oil futures surged nearly 2 percent on Wednesday as they were bolstered by a fifth weekly crude inventory drawdown and strong domestic gasoline demand amid ongoing global supply concerns over U.S. sanctions on Iran that come into force in November.

A pumpjack is seen at the Sinopec-operated Shengli oil field in Dongying, Shandong province, China January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chen Aizhu

U.S. crude inventories fell 2.1 million barrels last week to 394.1 million barrels, the lowest level since February 2015, government data showed. Gasoline stocks fell 1.7 million barrels versus forecasts for a 100,000-barrel drop. [EIA/S]

“It was a squarely bullish report,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management in New York. “The summer-like demand from drivers is proving unrelenting.”

Gasoline consumption usually picks up in the summer and wanes in autumn, but demand remained strong in the latest week, estimated at 9.5 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 settled up $1.27, or 1.8 percent, at $71.12 a barrel.

Brent futures LCOc1 also rose but the gains were more muted, as the global benchmark ended 37 cents, or 0.5 percent, higher at $79.40 a barrel.

In the previous session, Brent rose 1.3 percent on a media report that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, was comfortable with prices above $80, indicating the producer would not try to increase output to drive prices lower.

Reuters reported on Sept. 5 that Saudi Arabia wanted oil to stay between $70 and $80 to keep a balance between maximising revenue and keeping a lid on prices until U.S. congressional elections.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers including Russia meet on Sept. 23 in Algeria to discuss how to allocate supply increases within their quota framework to offset the loss of Iranian supply.

U.S. sanctions affecting Iran’s oil exports come into force on Nov. 4 and many buyers have already scaled back Iranian purchases. But it is unclear how easily other producers can compensate for any lost supply.

Additional reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen in Beijing; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Edmund Blair

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