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[HONG KONG] Oil headed for the first weekly loss in a month as Opec stuck to its policy of unfettered supply after members rejected a proposal to adopt a new production ceiling.
Futures were little changed in New York, set to slide 0.2 per cent this week. While members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries failed to agree on a new output target, ministers were united in their optimism that global oil markets are improving.
US crude stockpiles dropped by 1.37 million barrels as production fell for a 12th week, according to a report from the Energy Information Administration on Thursday.
Oil has surged about 85 per cent from a 12-year low earlier in February amid disruptions from Nigeria to Venezuela and as US output declines under price pressure from Opec's policy of sustaining production.
The group needs more time to come up with a new output ceiling, outgoing Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said after the meeting in Vienna, adding that it's hard to find a target when Iranian supply is rising and significant Libyan volumes are halted.
"The consensus in the market is that we will see balance sometime before the end of 2016," Michael McCarthy, a chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone.
"Although no agreement was reached by Opec, they're edging toward being able to have a civil discussion again. The ongoing evidence that demand is picking up in the US and that there is a supply side response, is keeping the market supported."
West Texas Intermediate for July delivery was at US$49.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up one US cent, at 8:16 am Hong Kong time.
The contract rose 16 US cents to close at US$49.17 on Thursday, the first increase in five sessions. Total volume traded was about 80 per cent below the 100-day average.
Brent for August settlement rose 3 US cents to US$50.07 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Prices closed Thursday above US$50 for the first time since Nov 3. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of 38 US cents to WTI for August.