Oil hits $70 as OPEC minister hints of further cuts

Oil prices retreat but set for fourth week of gains

Brent crude futures, used in the pricing of more than half the world's oil, rose as much as 1.2 percent to the highest since December 4, 2014. This year also started with the OPEC vs. shale tug-of-war, although in the first two weeks of 2018, geopolitical risks and declining inventories trumped concerns over the rise in US shale, and supported oil prices and sent Brent briefly breaking above $70 a barrel on Thursday.

A barrel of West Texas Intermediate rose 61 cents to settle at $63.57 USA in NY, after having traded even higher earlier in the day. West Texas Intermediate the day before rose to its strongest since late 2014 at $64.77.

Suhail Mohamed Faraj al-Mazrouei, energy minister for the UAE, told CNBC at the 9th Gulf Intelligence UAE Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi that "there is of course a positive market sentiment that we are seeing today, and it is expected.the market is balancing and this is what we've been saying: the issue was the timing and how long it would take". "On the other hand, most investors are still positioned to benefit from further price gains", he said.

Last November, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and 10 non-OPEC-led Russian producers agreed to continue cutting production in an effort to raise prices.

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Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said on Friday that oil prices at $65 to $70 a barrel risked encouraging more oversupply from USA shale drillers. Prices have also been supported by concerns that supply disruptions could stem from rising political tensions in OPEC members Iran and Venezuela.

"We don't look at the price in a day and say we are in a point where we need to do changes".

The catalyst seems to have been data from the American Petroleum Institute, which said late Tuesday that USA crude inventories fell by 11.2 million barrels, to 416.6 million barrels in the week leading to January 5.

Foreign exchange trader Shane Thomson of Cambridge Global Payments said oil traders "seem to be giving more credence to bullish data as of late". EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) from earlier this week estimated that USA crude oil production averaged 9.3 million bpd in the whole of 2017, and 9.9 million bpd in December alone. "We believe the rally is likely to continue till March for certain until the winter demand subsides and clarity is reached on the production plans in the United States", Icra said.

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