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Oil prices were steady on Friday, supported by traders placing new hedges in the futures market in anticipation of a decline in US crude inventories, but held back from advancing by the prospect of rising global supplies.

EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) from July forecasts that US crude oil production will average 10.8 million bpd this year, up from 9.4 million bpd in 2017.

On Wednesday, prices sank when the US government reported that in the prior week, total USA inventories rose 3.8 million barrels, while supplies at Cushing fell 1.3 million barrels.

"There's an expectation that the build from this week will be gone next week", said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

"South Korean refiners are turning to US crude because of Iran sanctions".

For oil prices, EIA expects Brent Crude spot prices to average $73 a barrel in the second half of 2018 and $69 per barrel in 2019, with WTI Crude averaging $6 a barrel lower than Brent prices in the second half of 2018 and $7 per barrel lower in 2019.

Futures fell for the third day in NY, losing as much as 1.1 per cent to hit their lowest level since June 22, but US government's data showed a surprise gain in nationwide stockpiles on Wednesday.

Futures reversed course after falling early in the session on concerns about oversupply.

Oil prices declined toward lows not seen since late June yesterday after official data showed an unexpected increase in the United States (U.S.) inventories of crude oil that pushed stockpiles back toward the five-year average.

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and partners including Russian Federation had earlier cut output to rebalance supply and demand.

"Oil is holding up reasonably well ..."

"Venezuela's ticking time bomb together with the return of Iran's oil industry to the sanctions era has all the makings for a major supply shock", Stephen Brennock, oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates, said in a research note published Friday.

Oil prices are also feeling the effects of tensions over global trade, which could cause economic growth to slow.

U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to ratchet up pressure on China for trade concessions by proposing a higher 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an global nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran has angered Tehran.

“There are a lot of escalation points that could occur very quickly and that worries me, ” Barratt said.

China has said it plans to impose tariffs on liquefied natural gas, raising concerns that it could also impose tariffs on oil, said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital Management in NY.

Stocks at the key Cushing storage hub in Oklahoma fell by 1.3 million barrels, the lowest level since October 2014, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).


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