Oil prices hit fresh 2019 highs on trade hopes

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Brent crude futures rose 1 cent to $67.09 after touching a 2019 peak on Wednesday at $67.38.

Prices, however, remained just below 2019 peaks reached earlier this week as United States crude oil production hit a record 12 million barrels per day (bpd) and its exports also surged. "Anything positive today on trade talks will boost the oil price".

US crude oil stockpiles rose for a fifth straight week to the highest in more than a year, as production hit a record high and seasonal maintenance kept refining rates low last week, the Energy Information Administration said.

However, analysts said that a global economic slowdown - signs of which emerged late previous year - was preventing prices from surging beyond highs reached this week.

That means USA crude output has soared by nearly 2.5 million bpd since the start of 2018, and by a whopping 5 million bpd since 2013. The US is the only country to have reached 12-million bpd of production to date. -China trade talks would soon produce a deal, although new record US oil supply limited gains.

Still, while the numbers would contribute to a bearish sentiment, analysts such as Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy, pointed out that OPEC in general is still supportive of prices, and "Sharply declining oil output from Iran and Venezuela will further prompt bullish sentiment in the market".

Although crude prices have ended higher this week, rising US crude oil production continues to worry investors that the glut of supply in the global oil market could be here to stay for longer while halting crude's upward price trajectory.

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Net U.S. crude imports rose last week by 69,000 barrels per day.

Oil prices were firm on Friday, supported by OPEC's ongoing supply cuts and hopes that Washington and Beijing may soon end their trade dispute.

Data released on Thursday chipped away at confidence over the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) being able to contain a potential global oversupply of crude via its production cuts, with the result being that the two major benchmarks incurred mild price drops - however, the prices still hovered near 2019 highs, and some analysts think there is still room for further growth in the near term.

With U.S. supply surging, Goldman Sachs said it expected non-OPEC supply to grow by 1.9 million bpd this year, more than offsetting the OPEC cuts.

Surging U.S. crude oil production, is partly offsetting OPEC's cuts.

"Given the supply and demand picture, Goldman said it expected an average Brent price of $60-$65 per barrel in 2019 and 2020".

That means much will depend on demand, which Goldman said it expected to grow by 1.4 million bpd this year.