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Crude oil futures higher on imminent 'historic' US-China deal

Singapore — Crude oil futures were higher during mid-morning trade in Asia Friday, on an imminent 'historic' trade deal between the US and China.

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At 10:25 am Singapore time (0225 GMT), ICE May Brent crude futures were 21 cents/b (0.32%) higher from Thursday's settle at $66.52/b, while the NYMEX April light sweet crude contract was 15 cents/b (0.26%) higher at $57.37/b.

Crude prices have risen following comments from the White House that the US-China trade deal was moving towards a resolution.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House's National Economic Council, said Thursday that talks between the two countries are progressing well.

"We have to hear from President Xi and the Politburo of course, but I think we're headed toward a remarkable historic deal," he said in an interview on CNBC.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated that the US and China are working on details of the deal in a 150-page document.

The document will include China cutting subsidies on state-owned companies and disclosure by the People's Bank of China when it buys and sells foreign currency.

"One would perhaps find the US-China trade item one to look at again with the US noted to be preparing a final deal for signing as early as mid-March," Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG Group, said.

Meanwhile, the US oil and gas rig count climbed by 20 for the week ended February 27 to 1,110, marking its largest weekly gain since January 2018, data released Thursday by S&P Global Platts Analytics showed.

Oil-directed rigs were up by 17 on the week to 867, accompanied by a four-rig build in gas-directed drilling to 224. The number of rigs with no specified orientation was down by two on the week to 14.

This week's sizeable jump in rig count, could signal the start of a stabilizing trend, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

"The weekly rebound of plus 20 rigs versus the prior week's level, while a good sign, is just one data point," senior analyst Trey Cowan at Platts Analytics said.

"We will need a few more weeks of stronger results to confirm that the worst of the reaction to the sell-off in crude prices experienced in the fourth quarter of 2018 is really behind us," Cowan said.

Official data on last week's US rig count is due for release from Baker Hughes later Friday.

As of 0225 GMT, the US Dollar Index was up 0.08% at 96.18.

--Ada Taib, ada.taib@spglobal.com

--Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy, geetha.narayanasamy@spglobal.com