Oil edged lower on Wednesday as investors took profits from two straight days of gains amid supply tightness, causing Brent crude to lose 37 cents or 0.5 per cent to trade at $78.28 a barrel, and the US West Texas Intermediate crude to shed 23 cents or 0.3 per cent to sell at $72.97 per barrel.
On the supply side, worries of tightness after an unexpected draw in US oil stockpiles and a halt to some Iraqi Kurdistan oil exports were partially offset by a smaller-than-expected output cut in Russia.
About 450,000 barrels per day of crude export were halted on Saturday from Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region following an arbitration decision.
The shutdown followed an International Chamber of Commerce court ruling in favour of Iran in a case against Turkey that claimed that the latter should not have allowed for the flow of oil from Kurdistan to Ceyhan without the express approval of the Iraqi government.
Initially, Turkey said it would abide by the court’s decision, but this week, the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources said in a statement that the court had in fact ruled that Iraq should compensate Turkey for violating an oil export deal the two countries had.
Also, it was reported that Russian oil production fell by around 300,000 barrels per day in the first three weeks of March, less than the targeted cuts of 500,000 barrels per day.
US crude oil stockpiles fell unexpectedly last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, as refineries ramped up operations after maintenance season and US imports fell to a two-year low.
The EIA reported a crude oil inventory draw of 7.5 million barrels for the week to March 21 compared with a relatively modest inventory build of 1.1 million barrels for the previous week.
At 473.7 million barrels, the EIA said, crude oil inventories are 6 per cent above the five-year average for this time of the year.
In fuels, meanwhile, the authority estimated a mixed inventory picture after last week’s major draws in both gasoline and middle distillates pushed oil prices higher.
Analysts also said that concerns over banking issues have subsided for now in temporarily relieving expectations for a recession.
Pressure came as the US Dollar edged higher against most major peers, pausing its recent declines. A stronger greenback hurts oil demand as crude becomes more expensive for buyers who hold foreign currencies.