A Marathon Oil site in Texas. Picture: REUTERS/JENNIFER HILLER
A Marathon Oil site in Texas. Picture: REUTERS/JENNIFER HILLER

Tokyo — Oil prices rose on Thursday as Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter, unilaterally agreed to cut output over the next two months and as US crude stockpiles fell.

It was not immediately clear how the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump would affect oil markets, though some analysts believe president-elect Joe Biden’s administration will clamp down on US oil production.

Brent crude was up 40c, or 0.7%, at $54.70 a barrel by 5.12am GMT, after gaining 1.3% overnight. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) gained 43c, or 0.9% to $51.06. The contract rose 1.4% on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, said it would voluntarily cut 1-million barrels per day (bpd) of output in February and March, after a meeting earlier this week of oil cartel Opec and allied producers, including Russia (Opec+).

“WTI crude seems poised to rise higher as the Biden administration will clamp down on US crude production, the Saudis tentatively alleviated oversupply concerns with their 1-million bpd cut present, and as the dollar’s days seem numbered,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda.

A lower dollar, which makes oil cheaper because the commodity is mostly traded using the greenback, is also supporting prices, analysts said.

US crude stocks dropped, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. Crude inventories were down by 8-million barrels in the week to January 1 to 485.5-million barrels, against a Reuters poll showing analysts expected a 2.1-million barrel decline. The drop in crude stocks is a typical year end occurrence as energy companies take oil out of storage to avoid tax bills.

A sustained rise in WTI prices, though, may result in a resurgence in US output.

“If the US benchmark makes a sustained break above $50 and beyond, it could encourage additional US supply, which may be troublesome in the long run for many Opec+ members,” said Kevin Solomon, energy market analyst at StoneX.

Trump supporters swarmed the US Capitol on Wednesday, sending it into lockdown, as vice-president Mike Pence refused a demand from the president to cancel his loss to president-elect Biden. Police have declared the situation secure and the certification of the election result has resumed.

Reuters

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