Oil prices bounce on signs of market tightening

Oil prices rose Wednesday to finish at their highest level in roughly three weeks.

Futures in NY were little changed after rising 2.4 per cent yesterday, when U.S. government data showed that gasoline inventories dropped more than expected.

Brent crude oil rose 41 cents, or about 0.8 percent, to $52.83 a barrel by 1:33 p.m. EDT (1733 GMT), after hitting $53.10.

United States gasoline inventories dropped by 3.75 million barrels last week, according to an Energy Information Administration report on Wednesday.

Futures initially built on those gains in Asia, but the rise was tempered as the dollar climbed Thursday morning on expectation that US central bank may increase the frequency of interest rate increases this year. "The trending combination of higher crude runs and lower net crude imports should result in USA crude stocks flattening and then starting to decline by the end of April", said Societe Generale.

On Tuesday, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers were likely to extend their six-month agreement to cut output beyond June. But the news follow reports last week that Libya planned to raise its output to 800,000 barrels a day by April, from current production of 700,000 barrels a day.

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Saudi Arabia is eyeing oil at $60 barrel this year, a comfortable price for many OPEC members, but probably not high enough to encourage US shale producers to significantly increase their rig counts.

Crude prices received support after Libya reported the closure of key pipelines, as tension between the government and a militia flared up again, removing about 250,000 oil barrels a day from the market.

Gasoline stocks USOILG=ECI fell 3.7 million barrels, compared with expectations for a 1.9-million barrel drop.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) data recorded an inventory build of 0.87 million barrels in the latest week from 4.95 million previously. They had slid last week to the lowest since November as increasing American supplies countered output cuts by other producers.

Some nations listed as receiving crude oil exports from the United States in EIA export statistics, such as the Marshall Islands, Bahamas, Panama, and Liberia, are unlikely to be actual final destinations. The Global benchmark for oil, Brent Crude Futures for the front month was at $52.42 per barrel at 0040 GMT.

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