Oil near 2015 highs on strong China data

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OIL prices edged up yesterday, remaining near 2-1/2-year highs after data showed strong demand for crude imports in China and on increased USA refining activity that drew more crude from inventories. The benchmark traded at an average price of about $51 this year.

According to the EIA, U.S. crude stocks fell last week as refineries hiked output, while gasoline and distillate inventories rose. The US expects production to top 10 million barrels a day in the coming year.

Inventories are now down by nearly 20% from their historic highs last March and well below this time previous year or in 2015.

WTI for February delivery settled at $60.42 a barrel, up 58 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude prices ended 2017 with a bang on Friday, with West Texas Intermediate closing above $60 for the first time in over two years, and Brent said to be supported by strong demand from China.

Snow pushes out; arctic air coming soon
Very cold air looks to move into the region next week with highs in the mid to upper 20s and lows in the teens and single digits. Temperatures have to moderate a bit next week, and we may get a better shot at some snow or a wintry mix by about Thursday .

In global markets, Brent crude oil futures were also up, supported by ongoing supply cuts by top producers OPEC and Russian Federation. The cuts started last January and are scheduled to cover all of 2018.

Refiners have profited in recent months as the spread widened between U.S. crude and Brent futures prices.

U.S. output has surged overall this year, hitting a 46-year high in October when producers pumped 9.6 million barrels a day, according to federal data. While gains were driven by glut-shrinking output cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russian Federation, geopolitical tensions in the Middle East as well as pipeline disruptions from the North Sea to Canada and Libya have also helped.

In the North Sea, the 450,000 bpd capacity Forties pipeline system was shut this month after a crack was found.

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