Oil edges higher on cuts to Saudi exports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices edged higher on Tuesday, supported by signs of tightening global supply after a Saudi official said the kingdom plans to cut oil exports in April, while the U.S. government reduced its forecast for domestic crude output growth.

FILE PHOTO: Drilling rigs are parked up in the Cromarty Firth near Invergordon, Scotland, Britain January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Saudi Arabia, seeking to drain a supply glut and support prices, plans to cut its crude oil exports next month to below 7 million barrels per day (bpd), while keeping its output well below 10 million bpd, a Saudi official said on Monday.

Brent crude futures rose 9 cents, or 0.1 percent, to settle at $66.67 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 8 cents, or 0.1 percent, to settle at $56.87 a barrel.

Since the beginning of the year, both benchmarks have risen around 25 percent.

Crude has been supported since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, returned to supply cuts as of Jan. 1. The group, known as OPEC+, agreed to reduce supply by 1.2 million bpd for six months.

Saudi Arabia has voluntarily cut its supply by more than the deal requires and in April will keep output “well below” 10 million bpd, the Saudi official said - less than the 10.311 million bpd the kingdom had agreed to pump.

On Sunday, Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said it would be too early to change OPEC+ output policy at the group’s meeting in April.

The United Arab Emirates in February exceeded its OPEC target for oil output cuts, achieving 119 percent of its goal, the country’s energy minister said on Tuesday at an energy conference.

A host of involuntary supply curbs in OPEC members, caused by unrest in Libya and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, have also boosted prices.

In addition, Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA has been unable to resume crude exports from its primary port since a power outage last week, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

In the United States, domestic crude production is expected to grow more slowly than previously anticipated in 2019, averaging about 12.3 million bpd, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

“Part of the pushback against OPEC+ efforts has been this idea of unrelenting growth in U.S. oil production, primarily shale. The EIA report reined some of that in, and the report was supportive in that respect,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.

However, the EIA cut its 2019 world oil demand growth forecast by 40,000 bpd to 1.45 million bpd.

U.S. crude inventories fell by 2.6 million barrels in the week to March 8 to 449 million, the American Petroleum Institute industry group said on Tuesday. Analysts had expected an increase of 2.7 million barrels.

The official U.S. government report on crude stockpiles will be released on Wednesday.

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Diane Craft and Will Dunham