US crude falls on profit taking, oversupply worries

[SINGAPORE] US crude futures fell in early Asian trade on Wednesday as profit taking and concern over a larger-than-expected build in US crude stocks outweighed more positive news that Russia and Saudi Arabia had reached consensus on an oil output cap.

US crude fell 46 cents to US$41.71 a barrel as of 2318 GMT after settling up US$1.81, or 4.48 per cent, in the previous session.

Brent crude had yet to start trading but hit a four-month high in the previous session, settling up US$1.86, or 4.3 per cent, at US$44.69 a barrel.

"There are two things. There has been a fantastic rise in prices so I think in the Asian time zone there's been a little bit of profit taking," said Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer at Sydney's Ayers Alliance.

"The second thing is that while we're waiting for more official inventory data, investors are thinking 'are prices warranted at these levels'," he said.

Investors are also concerned oil production could rise as prices move even higher curtailing moves by oil producers, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, for an oil output cap.

That came as Russia and Saudi Arabia were reported to have reached a consensus on Tuesday about an oil output freeze, ahead of an oil producers' meeting in Doha on April 17.

"There's no reason for a freeze when oil is at US$50 a barrel. If oil prices move back to US$35 a barrel there'll be rhetoric and action for an output cap; at US$50 a barrel there'll just be rhetoric," Mr Barratt told Reuters on Wednesday.

That came as US crude stocks rose by a larger than expected 6.2 million barrels to 536.3 million last week, according to data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute.

That compared with analysts' expectations for 1.9 million barrel increase.

Official data from the US Energy Information Administration is due out later on Wednesday.

US crude production is forecast to fall by 560,000 barrels per day to 8.04 million barrels in 2017, while US demand would increase by 190,000 bpd, according to the EIA's short term energy outlook published on Tuesday.

Global oil demand will climb to 1.16 million barrels per day, a 10,000 barrel rise compared with earlier estimates, the EIA said in its monthly forecast on Tuesday.

The agency raised its oil demand growth estimate for 2017 by 120,000 bpd to 1.33 million bpd.


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