November 19, 2018 / 12:49 AM / 25 days ago

Oil rises on expected OPEC cut, but markets remain wary

* OPEC expected to cut supply to prevent glut

* US oil drilling points to more output: tmsnrt.rs/2Q97LFW

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Oil prices rose on Monday as traders expected top exporter Saudi Arabia to push producer club OPEC to cut supply towards the end of the year.

Despite that, market sentiment remains weak on signs of a demand slowdown amid deep trade disputes between the world’s two biggest economies, the United States and China.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were trading at $67.29 per barrel at 0045 GMT, up 53 cents, or 0.8 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures, were up 61 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $57.07 per barrel.

“The market’s bullish radar is still waiting for OPEC+ to deliver a sizeable cut number,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), de-facto led by Saudi Arabia, is pushing for the producer cartel and its allies to cut 1 million to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) of supply to adjust for a slowdown in demand growth and prevent oversupply.

Despite Monday’s gains, crude prices remain almost a quarter below their recent peaks in early October, weighed down by surging supply and a slowdown in demand growth.

On the demand-side, Japan’s October crude oil imports - which are the world’s fourth biggest, but which are in structural decline because of a falling population and improving energy efficiency - fell by 7.7 percent from the same month last year, to 2.77 million barrels per day (bpd), the Ministry of Finance said on Monday.

This comes as supply in the United States is surging.

U.S. energy firms added two oil rigs in the week to Nov. 16, bringing the total count to 888, the highest level since March 2015, a weekly report by energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday.

The rising drilling activity points to a further increase in U.S. crude oil production C-OUT-T-EIA, which has already jumped by almost a quarter this year, to a record 11.7 million bpd.

Put off by a surge in supply and the slowdown in demand, financial markets have been becoming increasingly wary of the oil sector, with money managers cutting their bullish wagers on crude futures and options to the lowest level since June 2017, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said on Friday.

The speculator group cut its combined futures and options positions on U.S. and Brent crude during the week ended Nov. 13 to the lowest since June 27, 2017.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford

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