U.S. oil trims losses as crude supplies fall for third straight week

Brent crude futures, the worldwide benchmark for oil prices, were down 78 cents, or 1.4%, at $56.16 late morning Thursday.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday it expects U.S. crude oil production in 2018 to rise by more than previously expected. US light crude was down 67 cents to $50.63 a barrel. Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.5 million barrels, versus expectations for a 2.2-million-barrel decline, the EIA data showed.

For 2018, it forecast WTI $50.57-up 2% from the previous outlook.

In refined products, attention will gradually transition to distillates, but the product's stock data will not come fully into focus as a driver of overall market sentiment until the peak of winter, when heating oil consumption in the U.S. rises.

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The Energy Department on Thursday lowered its forecast for oil demand for 2018.

Gasoline inventories, one of the products that crude is refined into, rose by roughly 2.5m barrels, confounding expectations of a draw of 480,000 barrels while distillate stockpiles fell by about 1.5m barrels, missing expectations of a decline of 2.2m barrels. This likely means OPEC must deepen its production cuts to finish its job of bringing oil stocks back to the five-year average.

US exports fell in the most recent week to 1.27 million bpd, but USA exports have still exceeded 1 million barrels a day for three straight weeks, the first time this has happened.

US crude inventories are still 13 percent above five-year averages headed into the busy winter season, despite efforts by OPEC to cut production. The API data is released after market close in the West. Consensus expectations of analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts earlier in the week had pointed to a draw of about 400,000 barrels.

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