Khurmala Oilfield Iraq
Oil futures headed high on US inventory data, Opec comments Reuters

Oil futures rose by over 1% on Thursday (23 February), after US inventories saw a smaller-than-expected rise in weekly levels, while Opec officials hinted at high adherence to production cuts alongside talk of extending the cuts beyond May.

In a scheduled data release, the US Energy Information Administration said the country's crude inventories rose by 564,000 barrels in the week ended 17 February, well short of a 3.475 million barrel rise forecast in an analyst poll.

Overnight, data from industry lobby group American Petroleum Institute pointed to an 884,000 barrel drop in inventories to 512.7 million.

Away from US market data, Qatari energy minister Mohammed Saleh Al-Sada hinted that Opec could extend its production cuts beyond May depending on market permutations.

Speaking at the International Petroleum Week in London, Al-Sada told a Gulf Intelligence forum that it is unclear whether six months of production cuts, triggered in tandem with 11 non-Opec producers, would be "enough or not".

"Simple truth is that we do not know yet, whether six months are enough or not. For the moment, it is premature to discuss these things. It is very difficult to judge at the moment.

Prior to Al-Sada's comments, Opec Secretary-General Sanusi Barkindo promised a 'high' level of compliance with production cuts promised by the cartel at its meeting last year.

"I am happy with the high level of compliance with production cuts promised by Opec [on 30 November, 2016]."

The Opec chief also told IPWeek delegates he remains confident that the market will see the high level of compliance, as currently being noted by data aggregators, not only maintained, but improved upon.

At 4:36pm GMT, the Brent front month futures contract was up 1.45% or 81 cents at $56.65 per barrel, while the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was 1.44% or 77 cents higher at $54.36 per barrel.

Analysts at Vienna-based JBC Energy said a higher share of long positions, i.e. bets that the oil price will rise, seem to point towards expectations of stockdraws emerging soon.

"These are definitely not materialising yet as far as the available data is concerned. Our forecast for the first quarter, based on our crude and products balances, implies some 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of stockbuilds, i.e. half of what is observed for January at the moment, as we see mainly product inventory builds slowing down and reverse on the back of seasonally increasing demand and maintenance peaking globally.

"Further out, however, our balances still remain long and imply overall oil builds throughout all of 2017. In other words, the longs out there better believe that Opec/non-Opec alliance will continue the cuts through the second half of 2017 as well if they want to avoid a rude awakening."

Meanwhile, the precious metals market saw an uptick after the dollar slid against a basket of global currencies. At 4:37pm GMT, the Comex gold futures contract for April delivery was up 1.21% or $14.90 at $1,248.20 an ounce, while spot gold was up 0.91% or $11.26 at $1,248.70 an ounce.

"Rising political risks across the globe and overall market uncertainty have boosted gold's safe-haven status. The yellow metal remains bullish on the daily charts and could receive an additional boost to the upside if the dollar comes under further selling pressure," according to analysts at

Elsewhere, Comex silver was down 0.67% or 12 cents at $18.07 an ounce, while spot platinum was up 0.43% or $4.29 to $1008.09 an ounce.