Crude oil rises after report shows drop in stockpiles

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Oil futures rose nearly 1 percent on Thursday after data released by an industry group showed a surprise decline in U.S. crude stocks as imports fell, lending support to the view that a global glut is ending. The U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude April contract CLc1 added 48 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $54.07 a barrel at 0229 GMT (9;29 p.m. ET on Wednesday). Brent crude LCOc1 was up 48 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $56.32, although both benchmarks were still well within recent tight ranges. Crude inventories fell by 884,000 barrels in the week to Feb. 17 to 512.7 million, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 3.5 million barrels, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Wednesday. [API/S]

The data added to optimism earlier in the week when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said a deal with other producers including Russia to curb output was showing a high level of compliance. However, for prices to break out of their trading ranges, the market needs to see signs that OPEC inventories are falling, said Tony Nunan, oil risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp. in Tokyo."It's a battle between how quick OPEC can cut without shale catching up," Nunan said, referring to U.S. drilling in shale formations that has shown an upsurge after prices rose this year. [RIG/U]

"What OPEC really has to do is get the inventories down," he said. Eleven non-OPEC oil producers that joined the OPEC deal have delivered at least 60 percent of promised curbs so far, OPEC sources said on Wednesday, higher than initially estimated. [nL8N1G76AA]

In the United States, crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub were down by 1.7 million barrels, while U.S. crude imports fell last week by 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to 7.398 million bpd, according to the API. Official data from the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) is scheduled to be released at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) on Thursday, a day later than normal because of a holiday Monday. [EIA/S]