Hurricanes dent oil output as Saudi Arabia cuts supplies

Crude Oil Price Attempts Sharp Recovery Faces $50-Level and 200 DMA

3 Energy Stocks Under Pressure From Hurricane Irma

U.S. West Texas Intermediate and international-benchmark Brent crude oil finished higher for the week, but Brent was the best performer.

Brent crude futures were up 8 cents at $54.57 a barrel at 7:30AM GMT, with the benchmark for worldwide oil prices earlier marking its highest since April at $54.79 a barrel.

"One good piece of news is that the WTI-Brent spread has blown out so much that means excess US crude is going to be exported", said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.

However, prices received some support from rising demand in the United States, where Gulf Coast refineries are restarting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey that hit the region less than two weeks ago.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Thursday U.S. weekly crude stocks increased 4.6 million barrels last week, topping analysts' forecast for a 4.0-million-barrel build in a Reuters poll. Statistics showed Irma's predecessor Harvey shut a quarter of US refineries.

Gasoline inventories fell 2.5 million barrels.

The amount of oil held in US storage tanks rose by 4.6 million barrels last week after Hurricane Harvey added to the glut that has kept crude prices low for more than three years. As of late Thursday, data from S&P Global Platts showed that 12.8% of US refinery capacity was down due to the storm.

Reflecting the impact of Harvey which hit the Gulf Coast on August 25, the EIA said USA oil refinery utilization rates slumped 16.9 percentage points to 79.7 percent last week, the lowest rate since 2010. Yet another hurricane, Katia, is in the Gulf of Mexico.

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USA crude supplies are expected to stay elevated because at least 1.4 million barrels per day of refining capacity could still be offline past mid-September, Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note on Wednesday.

Port and refinery closures along the Gulf coast and harsh sea conditions in the Caribbean have also impacted shipping.

Analysts said that it can take weeks for normalisation of USA petroleum industry, which may again be affected as Irma is anticipated to hit Florida.

Hurricane Irma, which has become one of the biggest storms ever measured - picking up the Twitter hashtag #irmageddon - on Friday hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti, heading for Cuba and the Bahamas.

"Imports (of oil) to the U.S. Gulf Coast fell to levels not seen since the 1990s", ANZ bank reported. It is predicted to hit Florida by Saturday.

On Irma's heels, Hurricane Jose is heading for the Caribbean Leeward islands, which have just been devastated by Irma, with wind speeds of 120 miles per hour (195 km/h).

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that Irma is a category five hurricane, with maximum sustained winds estimated to be almost 295km/h.

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