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UPDATE 9-Brent crude hits 2019 high above $65, buoyed by output cuts

Noah Browning

* Brent tops $65 a barrel for the first time this year

* Partial outage hits top Saudi offshore field

* Brent to average $70 a barrel in 2019 -BoAML

* Global supply picture remains uncertain (Updates prices, adds analyst comment)

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Brent crude oil climbed above $65 a barrel to its highest this year as OPEC-led supply cuts and this week's announcement of a higher than expected cut by Saudi Arabia encouraged investors.

The international oil benchmark reached $65.52 by 1500 GMT on Friday, the 95 cent gain equating to a rise of about 1.5 percent. Brent approached near three-month highs and was set for a gain of nearly 5.5 percent on the week.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up about 1.7 percent, rising 91 cents to $55.32.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia started voluntary production cuts last month, aiming to tighten the market.

Top exporter and de facto OPEC leader Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that in March it would cut more than half a million barrels per day (bpd) more than the deal called for, sending prices surging.

The cuts come alongside involuntary production curbs as a result of U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan and Iranian crude, along with curtailed Libyan output because of civil unrest.

Prices were also buoyed by the partial closure of Saudi Arabia's Safaniya, its largest offshore oilfield with production capacity of more than 1 million bpd.

The shutdown occurred about two weeks ago, a source said, and it was not immediately clear when the field would return to full capacity.

"The market may be reconnecting with its fundamentals, specifically the several major supply chokeholds that have stacked up in recent months over and above the voluntary OPEC output restraints," said analyst Vandana Hari of Vanda Insights.

Bank of American Merrill Lynch said in a note that it expects a drop of 2.5 million bpd in OPEC supply in the fourth quarter of 2019 from a year earlier.

However, the global supply picture remains uncertain.

U.S. oil production is on the rise, while the seizure of Libya's main oilfield by Eastern armed forces this week could soon lead to its reopening.

But reduced exports from Venezuela and Iran have helped to tighten global supply and security threats could threaten Nigerian production after general elections this weekend.

"Looking ahead, the prognosis for Venezuela and Iran remains skewed to the downside. As such, they should continue to act as important pillars of price support. The same, however, cant be said for Libya," said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

"This risks throwing a spanner in the works for OPEC's rebalancing ambitions and, therefore, the price recovery."

Faltering global economic growth is also a concern, with signs of a slowdown now abundant in Europe, Asia and the United States, which could lead to slowing growth in fuel demand.

(Reporting by Noah Browning; Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore and Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Dale Hudson and David Goodman)