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Crude oil futures rocket higher as Saudi exports plunge; ICE Brent up at $55.56/b, NYMEX WTI $46.84/b

New York — Crude futures moved sharply higher in midmorning trading Wednesday following news that Saudi Arabian oil exports plunged in December.

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ICE March Brent was up $1.76 at $55.56/b and NYMEX February WTI was $1.43 higher at $46.84/b.

Saudi Arabian crude export loadings fell to 7.253 million b/d in December, according to media reports.

"Reports that Saudi oil exports were falling dramatically changed the mood of the market," Price Futures Group senior market analyst Phil Flynn said. "Saudi Arabia is very serious about lowering the supply situation. ... It really shows that cuts are going into effect today and will have an impact."

Data from cFlow, S&P Global Platts trade-flow software, estimated Saudi crude exports at 7.523 million b/d in December, down from 8.162 million b/d in November.

OPEC, Russia and nine other non-OPEC allies agreed in early December to a combined 1.2 million b/d supply reduction for the first six months of 2019, to shore up what many expect to be weakening market fundamentals ahead.

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On Tuesday, UAE's energy minister, Suhail al-Mazrouei, said that the cuts should balance the oil market in first quarter of 2019, and suggested that OPEC and its allies may consider "deeper cuts" if the market fails to respond.

"As we start a new year, I remain optimistic toward achieving the market balance during the first quarter after [the] OPEC and Non-OPEC production cut. At this time last year we remember the same pessimistic views which we disagreed with and as we expected 2018 was a good year," Mazrouei said in a tweet Tuesday.

Products futures traced crude higher. NYMEX February ULSD was up 4.65 cents at $1.7259/gal and NYMEX February RBOB was 5.42 cents higher at $1.3563/gal.

--Chris van Moessner, christopher.vanmoessner@spglobal.com

--Edited by Annie Siebert, newsdesk@spglobal.com