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Lower stocks, fewer rigs in the US support crude

Singapore — 0543 GMT: Crude oil futures remained supported during mid-afternoon trade in Asia Monday on bullish fundamentals coupled with lower crude stocks reported by the US Energy Information Administration Friday.

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At 1:43 pm in Singapore (0543 GMT), the front-month ICE Brent February crude futures were up 16 cents/b (0.23%) from Friday's settle at $68.32/b, while the front-month NYMEX February light sweet crude futures contract was 6 cents/b (0.10%) higher at $61.78/b.

Commercial crude inventories fell 5.47 million barrels to 441.36 million barrels during the week ended December 20, the EIA data showed. The drawdown left stocks 1.9% above their five-year average for this time of the year, the narrowest supply overhang since late October.

Meanwhile, crude stocks slid at Cushing, Oklahoma -- the delivery point of the NYMEX crude contract -- for the seventh straight week, dropping 2.39 million barrels to a 13-month low at 37.77 million barrels.

"WTI crude oil futures clocked bullish gains for the fourth consecutive week as markets remain optimistic over upbeat economic data and declining US crude oil stockpile levels," Benjamin Lu, investment analyst at Phillip Futures, said.

"Upbeat economic data along with dwindling US crude oil inventories have promulgated bullish convictions in oil prices [in the fourth quarter]," Lu added.

Meanwhile, falling oil and gas rigs in the US also helped firm oil prices.

The US oil and natural gas rig count dropped by 20 to 840 during the last week of 2019, according to rig data provider Enverus.

The entire decrease came from rigs chasing crude oil. These numbered 673 as of December 25, down by 22 from the previous week. In contrast, 162 rigs were hunting for gas, up two on the week.

The total rig count also reached a recent low of 840 during the first week in December 2019. With that exception, this week's rig count is the lowest since early February 2017.

As of 0543 GMT, the US Dollar Index was 0.13% lower at 96.430.

--Ng Jing Zhi, jz.ng@spglobal.com

--Edited by Manish Parashar, manishparashar@spglobal.com