Oil dips after three days of gains

Hurricane’s approach towards Florida raises fears US crude producers may suspend output

US oil futures rose 1.7% on Thursday, lifted by a deep draw on USA crude inventories, especially at the benchmark's delivery hub due to increased demand with the start-up of two new West Texas pipelines. USA crude was up $1.38 at $56.31 a barrel by 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. oil inventories fell last week by 10 million barrels, surpassing analyst expectations for a 2.1 million-barrel drop. That was the biggest one-week decline reported by the government agency since the 10.8 million-barrel fall for the week ended July 19.

Brent crude LCOc1 futures fell 65 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $60.43 a barrel.

Chevron Corp's 356,440 barrel-per-day Pascagoula, Mississippi, oil refinery is closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Dorian, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

Worries about a slowdown in economic growth and the impact on oil demand due to the trade war between the world's two biggest oil consumers kept a lid on price gains this week, even as falling inventories indicate a balancing market.

"Trade tensions (are) hanging like a dark cloud threatening to rain over oil prices", said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA. It is forecast to strengthen and become more powerful on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Over the past four weeks, crude oil imports averaged about 7 million bpd, 12.3 per cent less than the same four-week period previous year.

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"It's all in the import numbers", said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in NY.

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"Overall, we expect U.S. exports of crude to Asia to grow from 1.2 million b/d in the first half of the year to about 1.3 million b/d for the balance of 2019, regardless of China's tariff on U.S. Crude", ESAI Energy says.

Chinese buyers would have to find alternatives since US oil has become more expensive, he said.

As shippers send more Permian crude to the Gulf Coast, "there's more competition for Cushing barrels", said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. The rig count declined for the ninth straight month to its lowest level since January past year. -China trade war, allowing the US crude benchmark to mark its highest settlement in more than two weeks.

On Tuesday, however, concerns resurfaced after China's foreign ministry said it had not heard of any recent telephone call between the United States and China on trade, and that it hoped Washington could create conditions for talks.

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