April 13 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices got modest support early in the trading day Thursday on signs of a balancing market, though the devil may be in the details.
Crude oil prices started the day Wednesday in positive territory, setting the stage for a steady string of gains. The rally evaporated quickly after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported domestic crude oil inventory levels at the key trading hub in Cushing, Okla., grew by about a quarter million barrels last week.
Fluidity from U.S. crude oil production, foreign imports and domestic exports has left traders focused intently on weekly supply data in the United States. Vandana Hari, an industry analyst for Vanda Insights, told UPI that "on balance, market sentiment will continue to be swayed by the weekly U.S. stocks data."
After EIA data pushed oil prices into the red yesterday, a report from the International Energy Agency indicating a return to market balance gave some support to the bulls in early trading Thursday. By the IEA's estimate, production cuts from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with key oil states like Russia, could be offsetting production gains from the United States.
"It can be argued confidently that the market is already very close to balance," its report read.
Crude oil prices were barely in the black early Thursday, with the price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, up just 0.18 percent about a half hour before the start of trading in New York to $55.96 per barrel. Light, sweet U.S. crude oil, West Texas Intermediate, was up 0.15 percent to $53.19 per barrel.
Deeper in the IEA data, however, are signs of lingering supply-side strains. Gains in crude oil prices are making U.S. shale oil recover as operators respond to the improved market conditions and total growth is forecast at 485,000 barrels per day worldwide, against a decline of 790,000 bpd last year.
Investors have returned their focus to more fundamental market factors more than a week after U.S. missile strikes on Syria upset the geopolitical order. Crude oil prices could get some support from the latest figures on U.S. labor movements.
After adding just 98,000 jobs in March, the U.S. Labor Department said weekly data indicate more hiring in April. First-time claims for unemployment for were down 1,000 from the previous week to 234,000. The less-volatile four-week moving average was down 3,000 to 247,250.