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Oil prices stabilise, but rise in US inventories looms

Oil

Oil prices stabilised on Thursday after Brent crude posted its biggest one-day loss for seven weeks in the previous session, with gains on Russian supply curbs capped by an expected rise in U.S. inventories.

Brent crude futures rose 25 cents, or 0.3%, to US$80.85 a barrel by 1004 GMT, compared with about US$98 a barrel on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) advanced 26 cents, or 0.4%, to $74.21 after six sessions of losses.

Lending support to prices, Russia plans to cut oil exports from its western ports by up to 25% in March, exceeding its announced production cuts of 500,000 barrels per day.

Both oil benchmarks lost more than US$2 in the previous session on expectations of further increases to interest rates.

Minutes from the latest U.S. Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday showed that a majority of Fed officials agreed that the risks of high inflation warranted further rate hikes.

The policymakers also suggested that a shift to smaller increases would let them calibrate more closely with incoming data.

The dollar, meanwhile, has strengthened against a basket of other currencies in recent weeks, making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Oil price gains were also kept in check by signs of further crude inventory builds.

U.S. crude oil and fuel inventories rose by 9.9 million barrels last week, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures.

U.S. oil inventories have climbed every week since mid-December, stoking worries about demand.

A Reuters poll had forecast a 2.1 million barrel increase in crude stockpiles last week. Official data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is due at 1600 GMT.

While a stronger dollar remains a near-term headwind for crude, we expect lower Russian production and China’s reopening to tighten the oil market and support prices, UBS analysts said.

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