ALSO READU.S. oil prices hit highest since 2015, but doubts loom over rally Oil slips away from 2014 highs, though overall 2018 outlook remains firm Oil market capped as U.S. output fast approaches 10 million bpd Oil dips away from levels last seen in late 2014, but analysts say market supported Oil hits highest since 2015 on Iran unrest, tighter market
By Ahmad Ghaddar
Brent crude futures traded 15 cents lower at $69.11 a barrel at 1011 GMT. The contract broke above $70 a barrel on Thursday for the first time since December 2014.
U. S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.45 a barrel, down 35 cents. WTI the day before rose to its strongest since late 2014 at $64.77.
"It is remarkable to see that most market analysts believe that prices have rallied too far since consensus forecasts is significantly lower than the current spot prices," Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro, said in a note.
"On the other hand, most investors are still positioned to benefit from further price gains," he said.
Analysts and traders warned about the risks of a price correction since the start of 2018, but they say overall market conditions remain strong, mainly due to output cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia.
In addition to the OPEC and non-OPEC production cuts of 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) that are expected to last until the end of 2018, oil prices have found support from eight consecutive weeks of U.
S. crude inventory drops.
U. S. commercial crude oil stocks fell almost 5 million barrels in the week to Jan. 5, to 419.5 million barrels, or slightly below the five-year average of just over 420 million barrels, the target for OPEC and others involved in output cuts.
Relatively weak China December oil data weighed on prices, traders and analysts said. China's crude imports in December fell 9 percent month-on-month to 33.7 million tonnes, or 7.97 million barrels per day, customs data showed.
This has contributed to a fall in Singapore refinery profit margins to below $6 per barrel this month, their lowest seasonal level in five years, leading some refiners to scale down crude runs.
An expected rise in U. S. oil production to above 10 million bpd from 9.5 million bpd now has also weighed.
(Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Edmund Blair)