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US crude ticks up 24 cents for best closing level since July 2015, settling at $54.54

Key Points
  • Saudi Arabia's energy minister said compliance with supply cuts is "excellent."
  • Russian output edged up to 10.93 million barrels per day in October.
  • U.S. inventories fell 2.4 million barrels in the week to Oct. 27.
An oil pumpjack operates near Williston, North Dakota.
Andrew Cullen | Reuters

U.S. crude posted its best settle in more than a year on Thursday, bolstered by an upbeat market outlook as OPEC-led supply cuts tightened the market and drained inventories.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude ended Thursday's session 24 cents higher at $54.54, the best closing level since July 2, 2015. WTI is almost 30 percent above its 2017-low in June.

Benchmark Brent crude was up 9 cents at $60.58 a barrel by 2:10 p.m. ET (1810 GMT). On Wednesday, Brent reached $61.70, its highest intraday level since July 2015. The contract is up more than a third since its 2017-lows in June.

Gains were capped as some investors booked profits, traders said.

Confidence has been fueled by an effort this year lead by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to hold back about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in oil production to tighten markets.

Oil prices pare gains as US crude stockpiles drop

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Thursday supply and demand balances were tightening and oil inventories falling, while compliance with the OPEC-led pact to curb supplies had been "excellent."

"Compliance as a whole for OPEC up being rather strong," said Mark Watkins, regional investment manager at U.S. Bank. "Now that we've flipped the calendar to November we have the OPEC meeting at the end of the month. There's expectation that there will be positive comments about extending the cuts past March."

The pact to withhold supplies runs to March 2018, but there is growing consensus to extend the deal to cover all of next year.

Iraq's oil minister said that OPEC's second-largest producer supports keeping curbs on global oil supply to bolster prices, adding $60 per barrel would be an acceptable target price for his country.

Russian oil output edged up to 10.93 million bpd in October from 10.91 million bpd in September, official data showed on Thursday, but the country remains in compliance with the deal to curb output.

Oil was also supported by falling U.S. commercial crude inventories despite rising output.

If crude oil passes this price, it opens the door to soar

U.S. crude oil inventories fell 2.4 million barrels last week despite a 46,000 bpd increase in production to 9.55 million bpd.

Goldman Sachs said it expected year-on-year U.S. oil production growth of 0.8 million to 0.9 million bpd at year-end 2017. That would put end-2017 output at 9.6-9.7 million bpd, only slightly above current levels.

On Thursday the CEO of U.S. independent oil producer Pioneer Natural Resources said it expected to export 2.3 million barrels of oil in the fourth quarter.

The EIA said a record 2.1 million bpd of U.S. crude was exported in the latest week. Traders said this was due to U.S. crude trading at a wide discount to Brent, making exports attractive.

Analysts will be watching Friday's rig count data from U.S. producers said U.S. Bank's Mark Watkins.

"If rig counts didn't increase with oil prices being at a higher level then we may be seeing a high water mark in the U.S. shale production at this time."

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.