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Oil Prices Climb as Revised IEA Outlook Signals Tighter Market

Oil prices rose on Thursday to settle at four-month highs as the International Energy Agency predicted a tighter market in 2024 and raised its view on oil demand growth this year.

Brent crude oil futures for May climbed $1.39, or 1.7%, to settle at $85.42 a barrel, the highest close since Nov. 6.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for April rose $1.54, or 1.9%, to end at $81.26, also its highest since early November.

Both benchmarks had chalked up gains close to 3% on Wednesday.

The IEA raised its view on 2024 oil demand growth for a fourth time since November as Houthi attacks disrupt Red Sea shipping but warned that "the global economic slowdown acts as an additional headwind to oil use".

The energy watchdog forecast demand will rise by 1.3 million barrels per day in 2024, up 110,000 bpd from last month, but still lower than growth of 2.3 million bpd last year.

The IEA also cut its 2024 supply forecast and now expects oil supply to rise by 800,000 bpd to 102.9 million bpd this year.

"Demand is staying high, while supplies are getting tighter, particularly on the fuel side. The refining margins are also very strong and a positive for crude demand," said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

The 3-2-1 crack spread, a proxy for refining margins, rose to their highest since mid-September on Wednesday, incentivising more crude processing.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian refining facilities continued for a second day on Wednesday, targeting four large oil refineries.

Russia's energy ministry said Russia's seaborne fuel exports fell 1.5% from the previous month in February because of refinery downtime stemming from Ukrainian drone attacks and fires.

The damage to refineries could cut Russian gasoline production by more than 10%, said Kissler.

Meanwhile in the U.S., crude and gasoline inventories plunged last week, government data showed on Wednesday, with sharply higher pump prices expected in the coming weeks as major refinery outages have cut supplies ahead of the summer driving season.

U.S. producer prices rose 0.6% in February, partly because gasoline prices increased by more than forecasts for a 0.3% advance.

Traders now see a 63.5% chance of the Federal Reserve cutting rates in June, according to the CME FedWatch tool, opens new tab, down from 67% prior to the data. Lower interest rates cut consumer borrowing costs, which can boost economic growth and demand for oil.

Near-term growth in global oil and liquids production will be driven primarily by the United States, Guyana, Canada and Brazil, offsetting voluntary production cuts by OPEC+, the U.S. Energy Information Agency forecast on Thursday.

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Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar ion Houston, Robert Harvey in London, Andrew Hayley in Beijing and Trixie Yap in Singapore Editing by Marguerita Choy, Susan Fenton and Lisa Shumaker.

Source: Reuters

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