LONDON – Crude oil prices climbed to six-week highs above $48 a barrel on Thursday as U.S. natural gas prices rose following the release of stockpile data showing tighter supplies.
U.S. light crude (search) rose $1.83 to hit an intraday peak at $48.20 a barrel. London Brent rose $1.52 to $45.20, while U.S. heating oil gained more than 3.4 percent.
Gains were given extra momentum by a surge on U.S. natural gas futures prices , which jumped more than eight percent following a stockpile draw.
Government data from the Energy Information Administration (search) showed natural gas stocks sliding 88 billion cubic feet to 2,610 bcf last week, with the draw concentrated in the eastern region.
"Natural gas and colder weather expected for the U.S. next week are driving the whole complex higher," said Frederic Lasserre of SG Commodities.
The gains added to a rally fired by petroleum stock statistics released on Wednesday that showed a larger-than-expected three million barrel draw on U.S. crude inventories to almost 289 million barrels.
That data had also showed a 500,000-barrel decline in U.S. heating oil stocks to 49.6 million barrels, although overall distillate supplies increased by 1.9 million barrels to 123 million.
Global supply outages and forecasts for colder weather in the U.S. Northeast have underpinned the market this week, keeping prices at the top end of their six-week range.
More than 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of output in the Gulf of Mexico, Nigeria and Norway's North Sea remains offline, although Norwegian authorities have allowed for the restart of about half the 205,000 bpd of output halted by a gas leak in late November.
Iraqi exports have been reduced by continued sabotage on its northern pipeline infrastructure and power problems in the south, forcing Baghdad to cut all its February-June Basra Light sales contracts by 10 percent, or about 160,000 bpd.
Worries that sabotage attacks will intensify around the planned Jan. 30 elections also have added a premium to prices.
Stormy weather has interrupted loading operations and tanker traffic in parts of the UK North Sea and at Latvia's Ventspils terminal and in Turkey's Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.
The disruptions coincide with OPEC's implementation of a 1-million-bpd output cut from Jan. 1.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (search) is scheduled to meet on Jan. 30 to discuss whether further cuts may be necessary as the northern winter ends and oil demand seasonally falls in the second quarter.
Some members say the cartel will consider tightening taps if prices fall below $40 a barrel.