Oil hovers near 3-month highs, supported by low U.S. inventories, trade progress

 Oil hovers near 3-month highs, supported by low U.S. inventories, trade progress

By Collin Eaton

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Oil prices hovered near the highest in three months in thin pre-Christmas trading on Thursday, buoyed by the previous day's news that U.S. crude inventories declined and as U.S.-China trade tensions continued to ease.

Brent crude futures were up 44 cents at $66.46 a barrel at 12:02 p.m. CST (1802 GMT), heading for the sixth straight day of gains.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 34 cents at $61.27 a barrel. The contract for January delivery expires later on Thursday.

Trading volume was thin, with oil headed for a third consecutive weekly rise. Prices were buoyed by China's Dec. 13 decision to cancel a plan to impose additional tariffs on U.S. imports on Dec. 15 and the Phase 1 deal between Washington and China, which has eased trade tensions.

The deal between the world's two largest economies has improved the global economic outlook, lifting prospects for higher energy demand next year and underpinning oil prices.

"The market's happy with (Dec. 15) tariffs out of the way and the trade truce, for now," said Bill Baruch, president at Blue Line Futures in Chicago.

In a further sign of thawing relations, China's finance ministry on Thursday published a new list of six U.S. products that will be exempt from tariffs starting Dec. 26.

However, if U.S. and Chinese officials fail to provide concrete details about their efforts to reach a trade agreement, oil prices could lose their upward momentum, said Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

"Unless we get real granularity, the uncertainty around what's happening on the trade front will start to add more resistance. We need to see signs that a real resolution is at hand," McGillian said.

Another development lifting prices was the agreement this month between Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers such as Russia to deepen production cuts by a further 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1 on top of previous reductions of 1.2 million bpd.

Adding to the positive mood, weekly data from the Energy Information Administration showed U.S. crude inventories dropped 1.1 million barrels in the week to Dec. 13, while gasoline and distillates stockpiles rose.

News of President Donald Trump's impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives failed to stir the oil market.

(Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in LONDON and Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Editing by Edmund Blair/Mark Potter/Jane Merriman/David Gregorio)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2019 00:09:53 IST