Oil prices hit highest since 2014, but analysts warn of overheated market

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Federal U.S. estimates show total crude oil production hit 9.78 million barrels per day in the week ending December 15, a record high that Craig said was out of reach because of the recent U.S. cold snap.

The West Texas Intermediate for February delivery increased 0.50 US dollar to settle at 64.30 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for March delivery added 0.61 dollar to close at 69.87 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.

US production for 2017 averaged an estimated 9.3 million bpd, and is estimated to have averaged 9.9 million bpd in December, EIA said.

United States production also fell by 290,000 barrels a day to 9.5-million barrels a day, the administration said, despite the expectation of output breaking through 10-million barrels a day.

Despite the prospect of flat crude oil prices into the future, EIA forecasts total USA crude oil production will increase to an average of 10.3 million b/d in 2018, up 1.0 million b/d from 2017. With OPEC in its second year of an effort to drain that surplus, the risk tolerance is gone. According to The Wall Street Journal, the president is expected to balance the decision with new measures targeting Iran's human rights record. WTI the day before rose to its strongest since late 2014 at $64.77.

For the week, Brent was set for a 2.8 percent gain while WTI was on track for a 4.3 percent rise.

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"This drop in margins could reduce Asian refiners' demand for incremental crude in the near term and weigh on global (crude) prices", said Sukrit Vijayakar, director of energy consultancy Trifecta. After reaching $70, some profit-taking is expected.

The EIA said U.S. crude oil production averaged an estimated 9.3 million barrels a day in 2017 and is estimated to have averaged 9.9 million b/d in December.

The greenback-denominated commodity has also benefited from weakness in the dollar, which neared a one-week low on Thursday, as it makes oil cheaper to buy for holders of other currencies. "Weaker USD tends to support prices".

The market was supported by OPEC-led production cuts and expectations that US crude inventories have dropped for an eighth week.

West Texas Intermediate is expected to average $4 below Brent this year and next, EIA said, down from the $6 price differential in the fourth quarter of last year as current constraints on transportation capacity between Cushing, Oklahoma, and the Gulf Coast are expected to lessen.

A series of gas pipeline explosions Thursday in Nigeria, meanwhile, could spook the market. At these prices, shale oil production becomes more economical in more areas.

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