March 15 (Reuters) - Global oil inventories rose for the first time in six months in January, despite OPEC's production cuts, but if the group maintains its output limits, the market may tilt into deficit in the first half of 2017, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.
The IEA said crude stocks in the world's richest nations rose in January for the first time since July by 48 million barrels to 3.03 billion barrels
"The actual build in OECD stocks in January reminds us that it may be some time before global stocks start to fall," the agency said.
Compliance by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries with its agreed output cut of 1.2 million barrels per day in the first half of this year was 91 percent in February and, if the group maintains its supply limit to June, the market could show an implied deficit of 500,000 bpd, the IEA said.
"If current production levels were maintained to June when the output deal expires, there is an implied market deficit of 500,000 bpd for 1H17, assuming, of course, nothing changes elsewhere in supply and demand," the IEA said.
"For those looking for a re-balancing of the oil market the message is that they should be patient, and hold their nerve." (Reporting by Amanda Cooper; Editing by Susan Thomas)