Oil prices mixed in choppy trade, rising U.S. production weighs

Oil prices mixed in choppy trade, rising U.S. production weighs

Oil slid more than 1 percent on Wednesday, after US data showed a counter-seasonal build in gasoline inventories and a smaller-than-expected decline in overall crude stocks coupled with another rise in domestic crude production.

Patrick Pouyanne, the chief executive of French oil and gas giant Total, said on Thursday prices could fall again by the end of the year due to a rapid increase in US shale production.

The sharp drop also came on the back of recent data, including a 13th consecutive weekly rise in US rigs drilling for oil and a forecast for higher domestic shale output in May, that imply the USA will continue to add to global supplies even as OPEC and its allies curb production under a six-month pact that kicked in at the start of the year.

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USA crude futures were down 9 cents at $50.50 a barrel. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 26 cents, or 0.5%, to $53.19 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

U.S. Oil prices were down almost 4% through the afternoon on Wednesday and now hover just above the $50 a barrel mark.

Iran was allowed to increase its output under the deal as the nation rebuilds from global sanctions that pressured its energy industry.

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Iran will probably be allowed to keep its oil production unchanged if OPEC decides to extend its six-month agreement on output cuts beyond June, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq said, adding that the Persian Gulf OPEC member has shown strong compliance with the OPEC supply cut deal.

Other geopolitical concerns have supported oil prices. The decline was triggered by the surprise build in USA gasoline stockpiles that point to weaker-than-expected demand at a time when consumption of gasoline usually rises. The US government's Energy Information Administration Wednesday reported a drawdown in commercial crude inventories for the week ended April 14, which should have been a bullish influence, but was overshadowed by a bearish build of 1.57 million barrels in gasoline stocks, against analyst expectations of a 2-million-barrel decline.

However, any interpretations of an oversupplied market moving towards a balance become questionable if product stocks start rising, especially gasoline, which should now be seeing a seasonal hump in demand. Distillate stocks reached their lowest levels since November 2015, the EIA said.

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