April 13 (UPI) -- It's possible that the balance between oil supply and demand for the major industrialized economies could slip below the five-year average, the International Energy Agency said Friday.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is in its second year of an effort to drain a surplus from global crude oil inventories with coordinated production cuts. A market surplus driven by past OPEC policies of defending markets shares with higher production and steady gains in U.S. output helped push the price of oil below $30 per barrel in early 2016.
A market report from the IEA said the impact of U.S. oil production is limited by pipeline constraints, while "more than a second Saudi Arabia" has been added to the OPEC-led effort since it began, making the markets tighter in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"With markets expected to tighten, it is possible that when we publish OECD stocks data in the next month or two they will have reached or even fallen below the five-year average target," the IEA's report read.
For the United States alone, analysis from commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts found crude oil inventories are at their lower point for this time of year since 2014. Some of the production gains have been offset by rising exports of U.S. crude oil.
Crude oil prices are now sitting comfortably above the $70 per barrel mark. Oil prices spiked at the start of the year and have since been supporting by mounting concerns over trade tensions between the United States and China, the potential for direct multilateral military engagement in Syria and a simmering proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
"As we write, uncertainty about the next steps in Syria and Yemen has helped propel the price of Brent crude oil back above $70 per barrel," the IEA stated. "It remains to be seen if recently elevated prices are sustained and, if so, what are the implications for the market demand and supply dynamics."
When Brent crude oil prices moved from $70 per barrel in January to the upper $60 range in February, Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné told French newspaper Le Monde the balance between supply and demand was delicate.
"It is not written that the barrel will stay at its $70 level, and we are working on downturn scenarios at $50 per barrel," he told Le Monde. "There are still many unknowns on the oil markets."