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Crude oil futures stable ahead of OPEC meet

Singapore — Crude oil futures were fairly stable during mid-morning trade in Asia Friday, as market participants were looking for fresh price cues from the OPEC meeting to be held early next week.

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At 10:15 am Singapore time (0215 GMT), ICE May Brent crude futures inched down a cent/b (0.01%) from Thursday's settle to $67.22/b, while the NYMEX April light sweet crude contract inched down 3 cents/b (0.05%) to $58.58/b.

"The mood was rather subdued, with traders happy to sit on the sidelines heading into the weekend where OPEC producers are meeting," ANZ analysts said in a note.

OPEC's Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, which monitors compliance on output cuts, is scheduled to meet on March 18 and March 19 at Baku, Azerbaijan.

"With the agreement due to expire in the middle of the year, the market is keenly watching for any signs that it may extend it," the ANZ analysts added.

"Any further meaningful rally in oil prices will likely lead to further US pressure to ease the cuts," Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note Friday.

"So far, however, the commitment to the ongoing OPEC 'shock and awe' strategy has shown no signs of wavering after the latest US presidential oil tweet (on February 25)," they added.

OPEC in its closely watched monthly oil market report released Thursday, revised downwards its projection of this year's global oil demand to below 100 million b/d for the first time since it started forecasting 2019 fundamentals last July.

Meanwhile, the projection of supply from outside OPEC in 2019 was revised upwards from last month's report to 64.43 million b/d, a rise of 2.24 million b/d from 2018, led by continued strength in US shale production.

With OPEC expected to produce 5.07 million b/d of NGLs, that leaves the so-called call on OPEC crude at 30.46 million b/d.

To balance the market, the bloc would have to cut its production further from the 30.55 million b/d that it pumped in February, according to the secondary sources that OPEC uses to monitor output.

"We now see scope for prices to rally near-term above our three-month $67.5/b Brent forecast to likely above $70/b as supply losses continue, demand growth beats low consensus expectations with technicals supportive and net long positioning still depressed," Goldman Sachs analysts said.

Elsewhere, the US oil and natural gas rig count ticked up by one on the week to a net of 1,086 Thursday, according to the latest S&P Global Platts Analytics data. Oil rigs accounted for the gain, as the number of oil rigs rose by nine net to 865, while the number of gas rigs dropped by eight to 217.

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

As of 0215 GMT, the US Dollar Index was down 0.03% at 96.725.

--Avantika Ramesh,

--Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy,