CORRECTED-UPDATE 8-Oil rises after Saudi Arabia cuts output

Joshua Schneyer
Reuters Middle East

(Corrects paragraph 2 to 16-week high, not 14-week high)

* Saudi Arabia cuts oil output to just over 9 mln bpd

* Yemen oil pipeline blast halts main export flows

* China export growth in December higher than forecast

* Coming up: CFTC positions data 3:30 p.m. EST Friday

NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Oil futures rose on Thursday on

news that top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia had cut back

production in response to flagging demand, and after China

reported strong demand for its exports.

U.S. crude futures rose to a 16-week high of $94.70 a

barrel before settling at $93.82, up 72 cents on the day. Brent

crude rose as high as $113.29 a barrel before settling

at $111.89, up 13 cents.

OPEC's top producer slashed oil production by 700,000

barrels per day (bpd) to 9 million bpd during the last two

months of 2012, according to industry sources. Major customers

for Saudi crude said the cuts were driven by lower demand.

News of the Saudi supply curbs helped briefly push Brent

over $113 a barrel for the first time since mid-October, well

above the $100 a barrel price Riyadh has said it favors.

Oil and other markets also got a boost from Chinese trade

data that showed strong export growth rebound in December,

raising expectations of revived growth in the world's No. 2

economy that could drive more fuel demand.

Crude pared some gains after the Philadelphia Federal

Reserve Bank said its annual revisions showed that factory

activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region grew at a lower pace in

December than originally reported.

"The strong data from China indicates demand might be

improving there and the Saudis have cut back production, but the

downward revisions by the Philly Fed gave the market a little

pause," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in


Gains in U.S. crude pushed the benchmark to a level of 67 on

the 14-day relative strength index. That is close to the 70 mark

that, according to traders who follow technical charts, can

indicate a commodity has been overbought.

U.S gasoline futures rose along with crude, but

heating oil futures in the New York Harbor fell by 0.6

percent to around $3.05 per gallon.

Traders attributed the fall to speculation that cargoes of

Russian gas oil may come to the Harbor. Physical oil traders

told Reuters that up to six cargoes may be headed for New York.

Also helping oil's advance on Thursday was news of a

pipeline explosion in Yemen that halted most of the country's

oil exports.

Flows of oil through Yemen's main crude export pipeline

stopped on Thursday after it was blown up by unknown attackers,

government and oil industry officials said.

"These three factors - Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the China

data - are all helping to push up the market," said Tamas Varga,

an oil analyst at broker PVM Oil Associates in London.

Saudi Arabia says it favors an oil price of about $100 a

barrel, but recent reports have suggested that the market is

well supplied and that output from some regions, particularly

North America, will grow rapidly over the next two years. U.S.

government data showed that domestic oil output rose above 7

million barrels a day last week for the first time since 1993.

"Short term, the Saudi output figures are bullish, but

longer term they are more bearish, because they suggest Saudi

Arabia sees the need to cut to balance the market," Varga said.

(Additional reporting by Robert Gibbons and Matthew Robinson in

New York, Christopher Johnson in London and Ramya Venugopal in

Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy; and Peter Galloway)

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