Oil prices mixed in choppy trade, rising U.S. production weighs

A pump jack used to help lift crude oil from a well in South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale formation stands idle in Dewitt County Texas

"Over the last four weeks, the country's crude oil imports averaged over 7.9 million barrels per day, 2 percent above the same four-week period previous year", said EIA.

Oil prices fell to a two-week low amid concerns that the global supply is far too high, and if the downward trend isn't bucked crude could decline for the third day in a row.

Global fuel stocks are well above the five-year average, and Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih was quoted on Thursday as saying inventories remained elevated in part because traders were selling supplies out of tanker storage.

U.S. crude stocks fell 1 million barrels in the latest week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a bit less than anticipated.

Crude futures were trading more than 30 cents higher in Asia early Thursday, but the recovery, against a rout of almost $2/barrel at the previous day's close, was more likely bargain-hunting than the start of a full correction, as the weekly counter-seasonal build in United States gasoline inventories continued to weigh on market sentiment.

Elsewhere in the energy spectrum, May gasoline tacked on 0.4% to $1.666 a gallon and May heating oil edged up by 0.1% to $1.583 a gallon.

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' kingpin Saudi Arabia said the cartel is likely to reach an agreement next month to extend its production cuts.

Prices for natural gas, meanwhile, fell as the EIA reported a larger-than-expected weekly climb in USA supplies of the commodity.

Iran will probably be allowed to keep its oil production unchanged if OPEC decides to extend its six-month agreement on output cuts beyond June, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam Almarzooq said, adding that the Persian Gulf OPEC member has shown strong compliance with the OPEC supply cut deal. The industry body American Petroleum Institute had reported an increase of 2.254 million barrels in gasoline inventories on Tuesday, setting the stage for crude's slide.

Slight production reported Wednesday also reinforced widespread anxiety that USA shale producers are becoming more capable in churning out oil at a lower price, analysts say.

USA gasoline stocks posted a counter-seasonal build of 1.5 million barrels, because of rising refining activity.

"Five of the last trading days we've been lower", he said.

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