Oil settles at $49.07, up 41 cents, after 6th straight drop in US crude stockpiles

An oil pump jack in Gonzales, Texas.
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An oil pump jack in Gonzales, Texas.

Oil prices rose on Wednesday after U.S. government data showed a decline in domestic crude inventories and strong refining activity in the world's largest oil consumer, ahead of next week's meeting of major oil producers.

The Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude stocks declined for the sixth straight week. Gasoline and distillate inventories also declined.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude ended Wednesday's trade 41 cents higher at $49.07. Brent crude was up 45 cents at $52.10 per barrel by 2:34 p.m. ET (1834 GMT).

U.S. crude inventories fell by 1.8 million barrels for the week to May 12, less than the of 2.4 million barrels that had been forecast. But news of a draw lifted prices that had slumped in late trading on Tuesday the American Petroleum Institute had reported a build in crude stocks for the week.

"The crude oil drawdown disappointed some, but the fairly large rise in refinery utilization bodes well for crude oil demand in the coming weeks," said John Kilduff, partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital LLC in New York.

U.S. crude production has climbed 10 percent since mid-2016 to 9.3 million bpd, close to top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, said the U.S. Gulf Coast led refinery activity higher. "Refinery runs over 750,000 bpd higher than year-ago levels for the U.S. has been enough to usher in a build - despite stronger imports. A triumvirate of draws for crude, gasoline and distillates is a supportive influence for prices."

Brent reached $52.63 a barrel and WTI rose as high as $49.66 on Monday after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed on the need to extend output curbs by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers.

The supply cuts of 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) were initially agreed to run during the first half of 2017. Riyadh and Moscow say they should be extended until March. An extension is due to be discussed at an OPEC meeting on May 25.

"Having seen an initial short-covering rally, we now need OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreeing on the nine-month extension for the market to begin build up new long positions," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

OPEC nations such as Kuwait, Iraq, Oman and Venezuela have said they supported an extension to the supply cuts, signaling that the meeting next week will go smoothly. Some analysts have said a deeper cut could even be on the table.

Jefferies bank said it was lowering its oil price forecasts due to the strong rise in U.S. production, cutting its Brent price estimate for the second half of 2017 to $59 per barrel from $61 previously.

North Sea oil output, generally seen in terminal decline, is expected to jump by a net 400,000 bpd in the next two years with new projects and greater efficiencies.

The International Energy Agency said on Tuesday commercial oil inventories in industrialized countries rose 24.1 million barrels in the first quarter of 2016. Trade sources and Reuters shipping data indicated a rising number of tankers storing oil offshore China because facilities on land are full.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.