Saudi oil exports drop to 2015 low as kingdom sticks to cuts

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The oil market has been caught in a tug-of-war between forecasts that OPEC production will remain at reduced rates and bearish reports suggesting US production is rising, preserving a supply overhang in the market.

Recently, OPEC published a report stating that the group has cut output for March beyond the agreed amounts.

Again, this is not the first time the nation will lose its premier position to the former Portuguese enclave, spurred majorly by crude shut-ins resulting from either militant attacks or facility maintenance by oil companies. As stated by Khalid al-Falih, OPEC members will assess the market scopes for the next two years and act cautiously when deciding on a possible extension of the agreement.

Brent crude futures were up 19 cents at $55.08 a barrel at 1331 GMT, while US crude futures were up 15 cents at $52.56. Production fell 0.5% month-over-month and 0.2% YoY (year-over-year). On Thursday, before the break closed most major markets, they settled up 3 cents at $55.89 a barrel.

Benchmark Brent crude futures were down 18 cents 55.71 at 0047 GMT.

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Crude oil prices slipped on Monday in subdued trading after a three-week rally capped by the long Easter holiday weekend, but losses were curbed by strong economic growth in China and a weaker dollar. "If I were OPEC, I'd be pretty anxious". Investors are also pouring money into the industry, suggesting USA output gains will continue.

The benchmark for US oil had also risen for three straight weeks through Thursday, before the Easter break. Iran fed hopes that OPEC and non-OPEC producers would extend the cuts, but Saudi Arabia's energy minister said it was too early to discuss an extension.

Non-OPEC oil producers such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, Sudan, and South Sudan agreed to reduce output by 558,000 barrels per day starting from January 1, 2017 for six months, extendable for another six months.

Oil prices fell on Tuesday, hitting their lowest in 11 days as a USA government report said shale oil output in May was expected to post the biggest monthly increase in more than two years. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude shipper, trimmed exports to a 21-month low in February as local refineries took advantage of more abundant supplies and processed a record amount of crude.

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