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Oil prices mixed, but still holding near $70 per barrel

A sign of supply-side pressure in the United States is keeping a lid on an extended rally beyond the next psychological threshold.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Crude oil prices were mixed at the start of trading Wednesday, but still holding near the psychological threshold of $70 per barrel on signs of broad economic growth. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/fd8e47609fed892cda5db735a1a47c34/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Crude oil prices were mixed at the start of trading Wednesday, but still holding near the psychological threshold of $70 per barrel on signs of broad economic growth. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Tighter markets, broad-based economic momentum and more rhetoric from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries helped crude oil prices maintain a band near $70 per barrel on Wednesday.

The price for Brent crude oil bounced around $70 per barrel for most of the Tuesday session, before settling a few cents shy of the psychological benchmark.

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Momentum this week was supported by sentiment from the International Monetary Fund that economic growth was accelerating, but potentially lopsided. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a weaker U.S. dollar was supportive of growth while backing the rally in commodities.

Perhaps more significant, however, was a call by Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih for a long duration for the multilateral effort led by OPEC to balance a market on the surplus side.

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Tighter markets, a weaker dollar, some level of geopolitical risk and an improved economic outlook have supported higher crude oil prices for most of January.

"More folks are joining the call for $80 a barrel of oil in the New Year," Phil Flynn, the senior market analyst for the PRICE Futures Group in Chicago, said in emailed commentary.

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The price for Brent, the global benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.17 percent at 9:19 a.m. EST to $69.84 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was up 0.34 percent to $64.69 per barrel.

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OPEC's effort, now in its second year, helped erase the surplus that pushed oil prices below $30 per barrel two years ago, but is also supporting growth in U.S. shale oil production. On Wednesday, meanwhile, British energy company Premier Oil said the first batch of 500,000 barrels of new oil from its Catcher area in the North Sea was loaded and out for shipment and another cargo was planned for February at a premium to Brent.

Late Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute reported U.S. crude oil inventories were higher last week by 4.8 million barrels, a figure that was dampening the rally early Wednesday. Federal data is published about an hour after the market opens and analysts surveyed by commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts, meanwhile, expected a drain on stockpiles.

Elsewhere, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said from Davos that geopolitical trends might lead to broad disconnections in the global economy and upend growth.

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"We think that shutting ourselves off, isolating ourselves, will not lead us into a good future," she said. "Protectionism is not the answer."

Her reply was a veiled critique of President Donald Trump, who favors bilateralism over sweeping trade initiatives like the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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