By Christopher Alessi
LONDON -- Oil prices were mixed Thursday after data showed a fall in U.S. petroleum inventories.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 0.2% at $66.75 a barrel. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was down 0.1% to $76.64 a barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange.
U.S. crude stockpiles fell by 4.1 million barrels for the week ended June 8, while gasoline and diesel inventories came down by 2.3 million barrels and 2.1 million barrels, respectively, according to the Energy Information Administration.
"Soaring U.S. oil demand" is supporting prices, according to Tamas Varga, an analyst at brokerage PVM Oil Associates Ltd.
Oil prices have come under pressure in recent weeks amid mounting signals that Saudi Arabia and Russia are readying to ramp up crude production after more than a year of holding back output.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries -- of which Saudi Arabia is the de-facto head -- and 10 countries outside the oil-cartel, including Russia, have been cutting production by around 1.8 million barrels a day since the start of last year. The agreement has helped to boost prices by more than 40%.
But with Brent having temporarily breached the $80-a-barrel threshold last month, largely in response to rising geopolitical risk to supply in Iran and Venezuela, the Saudis and Russians have indicated a willingness to exit the deal early. The accord is currently set to expire at the end of this year.
Saudi Arabia's oil minister is flying to Russia this week to discuss ways to manage an output boost both producers say they want to propose at a key OPEC summit on June 22, officials at the group said Wednesday.
"Irrespective of the inner workings of OPEC, Saudi Arabia and Russia were the driving forces to sign the supply deal [in late 2016] and will and most likely will decide in bilateral agreement to partially ease production restrictions," said Norbert Ruecker, head of macro and commodity research at Julius Baer.
"The near-term outlook for oil prices remains clouded in high uncertainty given the difficult-to-predict political factors at play," Mr. Ruecker added.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump blamed OPEC for high oil prices -- reiterating a complaint against the cartel first made in April. "Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again. Not good!," he said in a tweet. However, traders largely discarded Mr. Trump's comments.
Among refined products Thursday, Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock -- the benchmark gasoline contract -- was down 0.46% at $2.11 a gallon. ICE gasoil, a benchmark for diesel, was up 0.26% at $667.75 a metric ton.
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