Oil Prices Stay Near Highs, Though Stockpiles Skyrocket

Oil prices hovered around 2019 highs on Thursday, bolstered by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. However, such gains were capped by slowing growth in the global economy.

Prices were little changed after government data showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose last week as refineries cut output and weekly American oil production rose to 12 million barrels a day.

Data released Thursday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed, crude inventories rose by 3.7 million barrels in the week to Feb. 15, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 3.1 million barrels. EIA added that crude stocks at the closely-watched delivery hub at Cushing, Oklahoma rose by 3.4 million barrels.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures were at $57.04 a barrel late Thursday morning (1605 GMT), 12 cents below their last settlement. WTI hit a fresh 2019 high of $57.61 earlier in the day.

Brent crude futures rose by 10 cents to $67.18 U.S. after touching a 2019 peak on Wednesday at $67.38.

EIA also reported that gasoline stocks fell by 1.5 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 350,000-barrel drop. Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.5 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.7 million-barrel drop.

Oil prices have been driven up this year by supply cuts led by OPEC.

OPEC and its de facto leader Saudi Arabia agreed late last year, along with producer allies such as Russia, to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day to prevent a supply overhang from growing.