UPDATE 8-U.S. oil retreats from 2019 high on soaring production


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    * Economic slowdown prompts concern over demand growth
    * OPEC has led supply cuts since start of year
    * U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, Iran tighten market
    * IEA sees OPEC, U.S. supply cushioning supply disruptions

 (Updates with settlement prices)
    By Jessica Resnick-Ault
    NEW YORK, March 15 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures eased
slightly on Friday after hitting a 2019 high, as worries about
the global economy and robust U.S. production put a brake on
    West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures  CLc1 
settled down 9 cents at $58.52 a barrel, having hit their
highest so far this year at $58.95. 
    Brent crude futures  LCOc1  settled down 7 cents at $67.16 a
barrel, below their 2019 peak of $68.14 reached on Thursday. 
    U.S. crude ended the week 4.1 percent higher, and Brent was
up 1.9 percent. 
    "The market is taking a pause as it tries to digest mixed
reports that give us different ideas of future supply and
demand," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures group in
Chicago. "The OPEC-plus meeting could give us a little
direction," he said.
    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and
its allies including Russia, an alliance known as OPEC+, agreed
last year to cut production, partly in response to increased
U.S. shale output.
    OPEC+ ministers will meet on April 17-18 to decide
production policy.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2114HP
    "If OPEC+ decide to extend (cuts) ... we expect that
inventories will continue to draw through at least Q3," U.S.
investment bank Jefferies said. 
    The International Energy Agency said on Friday that the
market could show a modest surplus in the first quarter of 2019
before flipping into a deficit in the second quarter by about
0.5 million barrels per day (bpd).  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2121XL
    It said a comfortable supply cushion by OPEC could prevent
any price rally in case of possible disruptions and that
non-OPEC oil output growth led by the United States should
ensure demand is met. 
    U.S. energy firms this week reduced the number of oil rigs
operating for a fourth week in a row, with drilling slowing to
its lowest in nearly a year, prompting the government to cut
crude output growth forecasts.
    Drillers cut one oil rig in the week to March 15, bringing
the total count down to 833, the lowest since April 2018,
General Electric Co's  GE.N  Baker Hughes energy services firm
said in its closely-followed report on Friday.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N21118Q
    Oil price gains have been limited by concerns that an
economic slowdown that has gripped large parts of Asia and
Europe will dent growth in fuel demand.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N20Z19Y urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2115QE
    But oil consumption has held up so far.
    Crude oil use in China, the world's biggest importer, in the
first two months of 2019 rose 6.1 percent from a year earlier to
a record 12.68 million bpd, official data showed this week.
    Goldman Sachs said growth in global demand for crude in
January was "nearly 2.0 million barrels per day, with strength
visible in both emerging markets and developed economies."


GRAPHIC: Global oil supply & demand    https://tmsnrt.rs/2O4NEW5
 (Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Noah Browning;
Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by David
Gregorio and Rosalba O'Brien)
 ((Jessica.Resnick-Ault@thomsonreuters.com; 646-223-6052;))

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