Oil firms as Trump offers little on plans to boost U.S. output

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SINGAPORE (March 1): Crude oil prices rose on Wednesday as the dollar trimmed gains and a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump offered little on plans by his administration to boost U.S. oil production.

The market is being underpinned by OPEC's production cuts, while rising U.S. shale oil output is keeping a lid on prices.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 11 cents or 0.2% to US$54.12 a barrel by 0415 GMT and Brent crude added 15 cents or 0.3% to US$56.66.

Market participants had been expecting President Trump to include details on energy policy in a speech to the U.S. Congress but his remarks lacked any specifics.

"With oil you are going to see prices move higher into London session just because no news is good news. If Trump had announced de-regulations of some of the environment protections to make it easier to pump more oil, that might have put pressure on WTI," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore.

"Now all the attention is around to EIA's crude inventories data tonight."

U.S. stock futures and the dollar trimmed their gains on Wednesday as Trump promised immigration and tax reforms in a speech that contained few specifics or surprises.

On the fundamental front, U.S. crude stockpiles have risen for seven straight weeks. Forecasts for another build last week, this time of 3.1 million barrels, have fueled worries that demand growth may not be sufficient to soak up the global crude oil glut.

U.S. stockpiles rose 2.5 million barrels in the week to Feb 24, according to a report from trade group the American Petroleum Institute. Gasoline stockpiles rose unexpectedly and distillate stockpiles fell more than expected, the API said. Crude declined slightly on the report.

The official report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is due at 1530 GMT on Wednesday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has cut its oil output for a second month in February, a Reuters survey found on Tuesday, showing the exporter group has boosted already strong compliance with its supply curbs on the back of a steep reduction by Saudi Arabia.

Brent oil looks neutral in a range of US$55.93 to US$57.26 per barrel, and an escape could suggest a direction, said Wang Tao, a Reuters market analyst for commodities and energy technicals.

U.S. oil may edge up to a resistance at US$54.28 per barrel, a break above which could lead to a further gain to US$54.62.