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US crude rises 1.2%, settling at $48.52, boosted by OPEC cuts and stock market gains

Key Points
  • Oil prices rise, extending a rally from 18-month lows with support from OPEC production cuts and steadying equity markets.
  • Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to aggressively cut oil exports in order to boost prices and support its budget.
  • Oil and the stock market draw support from expectations that this week's U.S.-China talks will ease a trade dispute.
Jason Reed | Reuters

Oil prices climbed on Monday, rebounding further from 1½-year lows reached in December on support from OPEC production cuts and steadying equities markets.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures ended Tuesday's session 56 cents, or 1.2 percent, higher at $48.52 a barrel. Brent crude futures rose 27 cents, or about half a percent, to $57.33 a barrel, up from December's slide below $50, which was its lowest level since July 2017.

Brent has gained about 10 percent since last Monday in its biggest week-on-week rally in two years.

"Momentum is coming back into the market from very depressed price levels," Petromatrix strategist Olivier Jakob said. "We've had five consecutive days of price gains already, so what you have today is a continuation of that."

The oil prices are drawing support from an agreed supply cut by OPEC, well as some non-member countries such as Russia and Oman.

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OPEC oil supply fell in December by 460,000 barrels per day (bpd), to 32.68 million bpd, a Reuters survey found last week, led by cuts from top exporter Saudi Arabia.

Crude futures briefly spiked after Dow Jones reported that top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is planning to slash shipments to prop up prices and support its budget. The Saudis plan to cut crude exports by about 800,000 barrels a day from November levels to 7.1 million bpd by the end of this month, OPEC officials told Dow Jones.

"The market has jumped all over that," said John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital. Kilduff noted that a drop in exports has been expected.

The Saudis are "just being aggressive about trying to clean up the situation they fell into from oversupplying the market based on the fear of Iran sanctions," he told CNBC.

OPEC and its allies are trying to rein in a surge in global supply, driven mostly by the United States, where production surpassed 11 million bpd in 2018. Record high crude oil production <C-OUT-T-EIA> has pushed up U.S. inventories.

"The oil market continues to rally as the OPEC and non-OPEC production cuts are taking effect, reducing the oversupply situation that we've been seeing in the market," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

U.S. crude inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, fell by 565,000 barrels from last Tuesday to Friday, traders said, citing data from market intelligence firm Genscape.

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More upbeat equity markets also offered support.

"When stock markets are strong oil usually follows suit," PVM Oil Associates strategist Tamas Varga said.

Shares have risen on expectations that trade talks this week between the United States and China will ease a trade dispute. Disruptions to trade undermine prospects for economic growth and oil demand.

Goldman Sachs said in a note it had downgraded its average Brent crude oil forecast for 2019 to $62.50 a barrel from $70 due to "the strongest macro headwinds since 2015."

Societe Generale cut its 2019 oil price forecast for Brent by $9 to $64 a barrel and reduced its forecast for U.S. light crude by $9 to $57 a barrel.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.