* Brent and WTI crude both back above $50 per barrel
* Market supported by expectation of extended supply cut
* But IEA warns market still bloated, supplies plentiful
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE, March 31 Oil prices eased on Friday
as traders took profits following three days of straight gains
on the expectation that an OPEC-led crude supply cut that was
initially supposed to only last for the first half of the year
would be extended.
Prices for front-month Brent crude futures, the
international benchmark for oil, were at $52.83 per barrel at
0134 GMT, down 13 cents from their last close.
In the United States, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude
futures were down 10 cents at $50.25 a barrel.
Despite Friday's dips, crude prices remain over 4 percent
higher than they were at the start of the three-day rally on
"Oil looks to have found a range in the low $50s," ANZ Bank
said on Friday.
Traders said there was a growing sense that the Organization
of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil
production giant Russia would agree to continue their production
cut deal seeking to drive prices higher.
OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia agreed late
last year to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day
(bpd) during the first half of the year in order to rein in a
global supply overhang and prop up prices.
But so far, alternative oil supplies, including from the
United States where production is soaring C-OUT-T-EIA, and
doubts that Russia was complying with its promised cuts, have
prevented the market from re-balancing.
Still, over the past week, a growing consensus has emerged
that the supply cut would be extended into the second half of
the year - and that Russia would increasingly comply.
"The changed thoughts about Russia's role in the market
reinforce...(the idea) that a deal between OPEC and Russia is in
the offing," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at
futures brokerage AxiTrader.
Despite this, there remains doubt that the output cuts will
go deep enough for the world's bloated markets to tighten soon
and significantly lift prices, especially as other producers
that are not part of the agreement could step in to fill the
"There is a tremendous amount of stock in the markets and to
expect a major increase in the price is not very realistic," the
International Energy Agency's (IEA) executive director Fatih
Birol told Reuters on Thursday.
"If we see the prices go up as a result of any push from the
producer ...we will see more oil coming to the market, not just
from the U.S.; we will also see Brazilian and Canadian oil
coming to the market," he added.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)