Oil was nearly steady on Thursday as a surprise drop in U.S. crude stockpiles offset a smaller-than-expected cut to Russian supplies, while investors closely watched developments on Iraqi Kurdistan oil exports.
Brent crude futures fell 5 cents, to $78.23 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate crude rose 12 cents, to $73.09 a barrel.
Producers have shut in or reduced output at several oilfields in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq following a halt to the northern export pipeline, with more outages on the horizon.
Meanwhile, an unexpected drop in U.S. crude oil stockpiles limited price declines, with imports sliding to a two-year low, based on U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Crude inventories fell by 7.5 million barrels to 473.7 million barrels in the week to March 24, while analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll were for a rise of 100,000 barrels.
However, gasoline stocks fell by 2.9 million barrels to 226.7 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a 1.6 million-barrel drop.
While oil prices softened slightly on Thursday, they remained within the trading band seen since the start of 2023, the analysts added.
Meanwhile, lower-than-targeted cuts to Russian crude production eased supply concerns.