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[NEW YORK] Oil prices marked gains for their sixth day running on Thursday amid signs that US production, a key driver of the global supply glut, may be on the cusp of easing.
West Texas Intermediate for May delivery, the US benchmark, advanced 32 cents to close at US$56.71 a barrel on the New York Stock Exchange, a fresh high since December.
Global benchmark Brent North Sea crude for June delivery rose 66 cents to settle at US$63.95 a barrel on the futures contract's first day of trade in London.
The oil market had opened lower as investors booked profits from Wednesday's gains, including a nearly six per cent jump in WTI.
For James Williams of WTRG Economics, the US Department of Energy's report Wednesday showing a slight 20,000 barrels per day decline in crude production in the week ended April 10, the second drop in three weeks, had kept investors hopeful that the supply rush would begin to ease.
The DoE also unexpectedly reported the smallest rise in US crude inventories - 1.29 million barrels - so far this year.
"We're finally seeing even in the weekly data the impact of the lower prices in US production, and I think that's very supportive of crude prices," Mr Williams said.
Oil prices have fallen about 50 per cent since mid-2014 amid copious global supplies and weak demand.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), in its monthly oil market report Thursday, predicted that US crude production would fall in the final half of the year, reducing the global oversupply.
"Higher global refinery runs, driven by increased seasonal demand, along with the improvement in refinery margins, are likely to increase demand for crude oil over the coming months," Opec said.
"Given expectations for lower US crude oil production in the second half of the year, these higher refinery needs will be partially met by crude oil stocks, reducing the current overhang in inventories." Carl Larry, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said that the market appeared to be trending higher, which could bring prices back up to the US$65-70 range, thanks to a rebalancing of supply and demand.
"We're starting to see refineries run higher," Larry said. "We have a lot of refining season to go - we just got started - we are going to start seeing more drawdown in crude, we are going to start seeing production start to tip off."