Oil ticks up on US stocks fall, signs of US-China thaw

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LONDON (Sept 12): Oil prices rose on Thursday, making good on some of the previous session's losses, after signs of easing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and a fall in US crude stockpiles to their lowest in nearly a year.

Brent crude futures rose 30 cents to US$61.11 a barrel by 0826 GMT, heading for their first weekly loss in four. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up 39 cents at US$56.14 a barrel.

Both China and the United States made some concessions in a protracted trade war, which has weighed on oil demand forecasts, ahead of a planned meeting in coming days.

The price rise on Thursday came after both of the principal global benchmarks fell sharply on the previous day following a report that President Trump had weighed easing sanctions on Iran, a move that would potentially boost global crude supply.

"The risk to the downside is currently muted and only a significant thawing in the US-Iranian relationship would change it," PVM oil analyst Tamas Varga said.

Also supporting prices, the US Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday that US crude oil stockpiles fell last week to their lowest in nearly a year, as refineries raised output and imports fell.

Crude inventories fell for a fourth week, decreasing by 6.9 million barrels in the week to Sept 6 — more than double analysts' expectations.

At 416.1 million barrels, US crude oil inventories were at their lowest since October 2018, and about 2% below the five-year average for this time of year, the EIA said.

On the supply front, Saudi Arabia's and Russia's energy ministers called on all producers to comply with oil output cuts under an OPEC-led 1.2 million barrel per day supply cut deal, ahead of a meeting of a joint monitoring committee on Thursday.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers led by Russia will discuss whether there is a need for deeper cuts.

Producers at Thursday's meeting will consider improving compliance with the deal, which would deliver an effective reduction in output of around 400,000 bpd, an OPEC+ source told Reuters.

Nigeria, Iraq and Russia have, at times, produced above their quota.

The International Energy Agency kept its oil demand growth forecasts for this and next year at 1.1 million bpd and 1.3 million bpd, respectively, but said that surging US output will make balancing the market "daunting" in 2020.

The European Central Bank meets later on Thursday and is expected to ease policy to support flagging growth.