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Oil has risen more than 5% this year, following a second annual gain, as a drain in USA stockpiles and growing demand are reassuring investors that production cuts led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies are working.

"Today and this week are going to be critical to answering the question, is this a market correction or is this a resumption of an uptrend?" said Walter Zimmerman, chief technical analyst at United-ICAP.

US West Texas Intermediate futures rose 36 cents to settle at US$63.91 a barrel, after hitting a 20-day high of US$64.24.

After posting the best January in more than a decade, worry over record US output and broader market turmoil has dragged crude down this month. Brent, the global benchmark, lost 87 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.63 a barrel.

"We're not so much anxious about inventories, but trying to see how USA domestic production and rig count numbers are coming to week by week", David Lennox, a commodities analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney, said by phone.

Hedge funds continued to take profits on their bullish positions in crude and especially refined fuels in the most recently reported week but supportive comments from OPEC helped steady oil prices.

Saudi Arabia will not substantially increase its oil output over the next two to three years if the OPEC production cut agreement is not extended, unless a more substantial than expected deficit builds in global oil markets.

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USA crude oil output rose above 10 million barrels per day (bpd) late previous year for the first time since the 1970s, overtaking top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

"The standoff "shale versus sheikh" continues to frame the oil market, with the former again gaining the upper hand", said Norbert Ruecker, head of macro and commodity research at Julius Baer.

But soaring U.S. production is upending global oil markets at a time when other major producers - including the Middle East-dominated OPEC and Russian Federation - have been withholding output to prop up prices.

"Production numbers and rig counts are just as important at this stage, particularly with U".

As U.S. exports continue to rise, the price gap between WTI and Brent has sharply narrowed.

The US production amounted to 10.27 million barrels per day, according to weekly government data released late Tuesday. "We'll see tomorrow what the EIA data says".

OPEC and its allies, including Russian Federation, have been withholding crude output by 1.8 million barrels a day since the start of 2017.


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