OPEC's oil exports to US fell to five-year low in January

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"The cumulative effect of OPEC-led output cuts along with additional USA sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company ... bolstered market sentiment", said Benjamin Lu of Singapore-based brokerage Phillip Futures in a note on Thursday.

Inventories of winter fuel in the US fell more than expected last week as cold polar air blasted the nation, though crude stockpiles rose amid record output, according to the Energy Information Administration. US crude output stayed at a record-high 11.9 million barrels a day.

"The key supply story remains the ongoing OPEC production cuts", U.S. bank Goldman Sachs said on Wednesday.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, slipped 49 cents to $61.49 a barrel as of 1053 GMT. US crude was down 48 cents at $53.18.

He said the API figures showing rising stocks "do little to silence the USA glut alarm bells".

Helping to underpin prices are the OPEC-led supply cuts and Washington's sanctions against Venezuelan crude exports. “The political crisis in Venezuela was part of the reason prices were rising in previous weeks, but this seems to have been priced in by now, ” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com.

"This is either because the market assumes that the size of the impact will not be large, or at least it will be of short enough duration".

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Also dampening market sentiment were worries about weaker global economic growth and the U.S. Oil fell on Tuesday after a survey showed euro zone business expansion almost stalled in January.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead a delegation to Beijing next week to lay the groundwork for a meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping later this month.

Senior U.S. and Chinese officials are poised to start another round of trade talks next week.

Countering the rising United States crude output and inventories are voluntary supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) aimed at tightening the market and propping up prices.

The producers known as OPEC+ began cutting production from last month to avert a new supply glut and OPEC has delivered nearly three-quarters of its pledged cutback already, according to a Reuters survey.

"Distillate demand increased sharply last week due to the extreme cold weather, which contributed to the declining distillate stocks", Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. A stronger dollar makes greenback-denominated commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies.

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