Oil prices steadied on Tuesday after a week of gains as the prospect of increasing U.S. exports dampened bullish sentiment that has driven Brent to more than two-year highs above $60 per barrel.
Iraq's move to increase oil exports from its southern ports by 220,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 3.45 million bpd to make up for supply disruptions from its northern Kirkuk fields also weighed on prices, traders said. Benchmark Brent was down 10 cents at $60.80 a barrel by 1050 GMT, not far off July 2015-highs reached earlier this week, and up around 37 percent since their 2017 lows last June.
U.S. light crude was 10 cents lower at $54.05, still near its highest since February and also not far off its highest for more than two years. Traders and brokers said investors were adjusting positions after price rises of around 5 percent in October. Despite generally upbeat sentiment, some analysts also warned the market was overbought, having risen too far, too fast.
"U.S. shale output could keep a lid on prices over the medium to long-term," said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers.
U.S. light crude has been trading at a discount of around $6.70 to Brent making it attractive to refiners. U.S. crude production has risen almost 13 percent since mid-2016 to 9.5 million barrels per day (bpd).
"The large differential has opened the door on regional arbitrage, driving a spike in U.S. crude exports over recent weeks," BMI Research said in a note.
Despite Tuesday's price dip, sentiment remained positive, fueled by a pledge by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other exporters to hold back about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in oil production to tighten markets. While the actual cuts aren't quite as high as the target, analysts say overall compliance has been strong.
"The OPEC deal compliance has been very firm, with rates averaging 86 percent since January," according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
The pact runs to March 2018, but Saudi Arabia and Russia have voiced support to extend the agreement.
OPEC is scheduled to meet officially at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on Nov. 30.
"The fear of oversupply could easily turn to a fear of undersupply if inventories keep declining like they have been and demand continues to grow," said William O'Loughlin, investment analyst at Rivkin Securities.