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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Oil prices gain as OPEC revises deficit forecast

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO:  Pumpjacks are seen during sunset at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pumpjacks are seen during sunset at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang

By Aaron Sheldrick

TOKYO (Reuters) - Oil prices edged higher on Thursday with the market mood switching to relief as OPEC forecast a supply deficit next year, from doom and gloom over data showing a surprise increase in U.S. crude inventories.

Brent futures (LCOc1) rose 24 cents, or 0.4% to $63.96 a barrel by 0242 GMT, after skidding 1% on Wednesday on the U.S. stocks build-up.

West Texas Intermediate crude (CLc1) was down 10 cents, or 0.2%, at $58.85 a barrel, following a 0.8% drop the previous session.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Wednesday said it now expected a small deficit in the oil market in the next year, suggesting the market is tighter than previously thought - even before the latest pact with other producers to curb supply takes effect.

The revised forecast by OPEC marks a further retreat from a prediction of a glut in 2020 as U.S. production growth begins to slow.

Still, U.S. inventories are on the rise. Crude stockpiles last week rose unexpectedly, gaining more than 800,000 barrels, compared with a Reuters poll that forecast a 2.8 million barrel decline.

Inventories of petroleum products also increased with gasoline stocks surging by more than 5 million barrels and distillates gaining a bit over 4 million barrels - with both more than double expectations.

"The overall report was very bearish as demand fell off a cliff and total stockpiles climbed to the highest level in seven months," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

GRAPHIC: U.S. petroleum inventories - https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/US-PETROLEUM-INVENTORIES/0H001QXMB9NY/eikon.png

Beyond the balance between inventories and supply, investors are also awaiting news on negotiations between Washington and Beijing to end a long-running trade war and get an agreement before another round of U.S. sanctions kicks in.

The lingering battle between the world's two biggest economies has hit global growth, in the process denting demand for crude and oil products.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to discuss tariffs on Chinese goods set to be imposed on Dec. 15 with top trade advisers as markets brace for fallout in China's reaction.

"In the near-term, U.S.-China trade remains the primary catalyst and the 500-pound gorilla in the room," said Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader.

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