Oil slips from highs but still strong on OPEC-led cuts

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[November 02, 2017]   By Christopher Johnson

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices slipped from two-year highs on Thursday but sentiment remained strong as supply cuts by OPEC and other major exporters tightened the market and drained inventories.

Benchmark Brent crude <LCOc1> was down 25 cents at $60.24 a barrel by 1215 GMT. On Wednesday, Brent reached $61.70, its highest intraday level since July 2015. The contract is up more than a third since its 2017-lows in June.

U.S. light crude <CLc1> was 5 cents lower at $54.25, almost 30 percent above its 2017-low in June.

"The upswing in oil prices appears to have ended for the time being," said Carsten Fritsch, commodities analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Some investors had booked profits after the recent price rally, traders said, but the market outlook remained upbeat.

Confidence has been fueled by an effort this year lead by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to hold back about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in oil production to tighten markets.

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Thursday supply and demand balances were tightening and oil inventories falling, while compliance with the OPEC-led pact to curb supplies had been "excellent".

Overall, oil markets have been slightly undersupplied this year, resulting in inventory drawdowns.

The pact to withhold supplies runs to March 2018, but there is growing consensus to extend the deal to cover all of next year.

Oil was also supported by falling U.S. commercial crude inventories despite rising output.

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An oil rig drilling a well at sunrise, owned by Parsley Energy Inc. near Midland, Texas, U.S., May 3, 2017. Picture taken May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories fell by 2.4 million barrels in the week to Oct. 27 to 454.9 million barrels, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

"U.S. crude inventories are back on a downward trend after disruptions from hurricane Harvey caused a small build," said William O'Loughlin, analyst at Rivkin Securities.

This came despite a 46,000 bpd increase in production to 9.55 million bpd. U.S. crude output is now up over 13 percent since mid-2016. <C-OUT-T-EIA>

Goldman Sachs said it expected year-on-year U.S. oil production growth of 0.8 million to 0.9 million bpd at year-end 2017. That would put end-2017 output at 9.6-9.7 million bpd, close to its highest for at least three decades.

The EIA said a record 2.1 million bpd of U.S. crude was exported in the latest week.

Traders said this was due to U.S. crude trading at a wide discount to Brent, making exports attractive. <CL-LCO1=R>

(Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans)

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