Investing.com – Crude oil prices settled higher as a drop in Libyan production and upbeat comments from Saudi's oil chief offset data showing the number of US oil rigs increased for the fifth-straight week.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange crude futures for March delivery rose 78 cents to settle at $63.55 a barrel, while on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent gained 92 cents to trade at $67.31 a barrel.
The number of oil rigs operating in the US jumped by one to 799, the highest level since April 2, 2015, according to data from energy services firm Baker Hughes, pointing to further expansion in US output.
Offsetting that, however, was an earlier report of a dip in Libyan production as the country’s El Feel oilfield shutdown, which produces 70,000 barrels per day of crude.
Also helping WTI crude to a second-straight weekly gain were upbeat comments from Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih who said it was clear oil markets are rebalancing, and added that he expects inventories to continue to decline in 2018.
Al-Falih’s comments come in the wake of steady US production, threatening to derail major oil producers efforts to reduce global oil supplies to OPEC’s five year average. The oil cartel together with Russia agreed in December to extend the 1.8 million bpd output cuts through 2018, to rid the market of excess supplies.
The Energy Information Administration’s weekly inventory totals showed US crude production remained close to its highest level in nearly half a decade at 10.27 million barrels. This keeps the US on track to meet the EIA’s recent estimate for domestic production to top 11 million barrels per day by year-end.