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Oil market re-balancing is here and will continue, IEA says

The oil market has essentially reached a balance and will continue to accelerate in the near term, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its monthly report published Tuesday, just nine days before OPEC's much anticipated ministerial meeting.

"We think the rebalancing is here and the rebalancing will continue," Neil Atkinson, head of the oil industry and markets division at the IEA, told CNBC on Tuesday.

"In the first quarter of 2017, we might not have seen a resounding return to deficits but this report confirms our recent message that re-balancing is essentially here and, in the short term at least, is accelerating," the IEA report added.

Global oil markets are on course to reach a supply-demand balance in 2017, the IEA said, with supply deficits expected to pick up speed in the near term.

According to the IEA's monthly report, global demand growth is poised to fall for a second consecutive year as a result of subdued gains. However, the report warned even if supply cuts are extended at OPEC's May 25 meeting, "much work remains to be done in the second half of 2017" in order to drain stocks closer to its benchmark five-year average.

"If, as a scenario and not a forecast, the current (OPEC) output cuts were to be extended for the rest of 2017, oil stocks would start to fall quite sharply… but because they are falling from such a great height, they won't get down to the five-year average until much later in the year and possibly not then," Atkinson said.

'Keep a close eye on Libya and Nigeria'

OPEC appears poised to extend oil production cuts at its upcoming meeting with most investors expecting the 13-member cartel to continue with its attempts to eliminate a global supply overhang which has depressed prices to less than half their 2014 high.

OPEC slashed output by around 1.2 million barrels per day (b/d) from January 1 for six months in order to remove a supply glut. Eleven other non-OPEC countries, including Russia, agreed to limit supply by half as much. Since the implementation of the landmark deal oil prices have soared by around 19 percent, though some analysts have questioned whether such supply cuts are likely to be effective beyond the short term.

Saudi Arabia and Russia issued a joint announcement on Monday to state that they had agreed there remained a need for a 1.8 million b/d crude production cut to be extended until the end of March 2018. The world's leading exporter and OPEC kingpin, Saudi Arabia, and top producer Russia urged other producers to participate in the supply cuts and agree on a deal in less than 10 days' time.

"While compliance with the agreed production cuts by OPEC and the 11 non-OPEC countries has generally been strong, we need to keep a close eye on Libya and Nigeria where there are signs that production might be rising sustainably," the IEA said in its May report.

The report found while output from OPEC members had inched higher, average compliance remained robust at approximately 96 percent.

The IEA forecast global demand growth of 1.3 million b/d in 2017, unchanged from its April report. Once again, the group cited a weaker-than-expected thirst for oil from investors in the first three months of the year.

On Tuesday morning, Brent crude traded at around $52.00 a barrel, up 0.35 percent, while U.S. crude was around $49.04 a barrel, up 0.39 percent.