Oil up as Saudis discuss cuts

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A technician climbs the stairs of a tank containing crude oil. AFP

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices edged up yesterday after the Saudi oil minister discussed possibly extending a pact to cut global oil supplies beyond March 2018 with his Venezuelan and Kazakh counterparts.

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News of the talks on Sunday helped offset downward pressure on oil prices amid worries that energy demand would be hit hard by Hurricane Irma and its aftermath.

The hurricane knocked out power to nearly 4 million homes and businesses in Florida on Sunday. It is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm over northern Florida or southern Georgia later today.

US crude for October delivery was up 41 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $47.89 a barrel by 06:48 GMT, having tumbled 3.3 percent on Friday.

London Brent crude for November delivery was up 30 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $54.08, having settled down 1.3 percent.

“The oil market reacted to the Saudi talks,” said Tomomichi Akuta, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting in Tokyo. “The drop in US oil refining is also to be offset by higher processing at other nations, so worries over a substantial cut in crude oil demand are fading.”

Hurricane Harvey – which hit two weeks ago – pushed the US refinery use rate to a seven-year low, but largely spared oil and petrochemical plants along the US Gulf Coast from significant damage. Some units are now restarting after shutdowns ahead of or during the earlier storm.

Motiva Enterprises was starting up the large crude unit – a little more than 50 percent of capacity – at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery on Sunday, according to a source familiar with plant operations.

OPEC and other producers, including Russia, have agreed to reduce crude output by about 1.8 million barrels per day through the end of next March in a bid to reduce global oil inventories and support oil prices.

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