IEA says global oil market now close to balance

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's biggest producer, is said to favour extending the supply curbs when the group meets next month, in line with the views of fellow members such as Kuwait and Venezuela.

"The signs are that OPEC has delivered on the output cuts and while they continue to do so, that'll put a floor under oil prices", said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

"It is now half time for the six-month oil production cuts agreed by Opec and eleven non-Opec countries".

The IEA made no prediction about such a likelihood, but said that a outcome of OPEC "hypothetically" renewing the deal would be to support prices more and give further encouragement to United States shale oil producers.

Oil had rallied above $US53 a barrel after some members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries voiced support for prolonging production cuts with other nations beyond June. Meanwhile, it said, OPEC's oil production fell by 365,000 barrels a day in March as Nigeria and Libya suffered outages.

Oil prices were little changed in modest volume on Thursday, during a week in which crude benchmarks recouped more of March's losses on increased hopes world supply and demand were nearing balance. "We have an interesting second half to come", the agency added.

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"New data shows weaker-than-expected growth in a number of countries including Russia, India, several Middle Eastern countries, Korea and the U.S., where demand has stalled in recent months", it said.

"The net result is that global stocks might have marginally increased in the first quarter, versus an implied draw of about 0.2 million barrels per day", the Paris-based IEA said.

On Thursday, the global benchmark for crude oil was up 2 cents at $55.88 a barrel.

Oil inventories in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development increased by 38.5 million barrels in the first quarter to about 3 billion barrels, offsetting the decline in emerging economies, according to the IEA.

Oil prices are still around 25 per cent higher than they were a year ago, and roughly stable over the past three months, despite frequent day-to-day volatility.


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