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Oil prices flat; focus on OPEC-led output cuts, Libya oilfield

EW YORK – Oil prices hovered near flat on Tuesday as the market balanced OPEC-led efforts to tighten crude supply with the restart of Libya’s biggest oilfield and the prospect of weaker demand.

Investor hopes for an imminent trade deal between the United States and China also wavered on mixed comments from the White House.

Brent, the international benchmark, was unchanged at $65.67 a barrel as of 11:38 a.m. EST (1638 GMT). U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 1 cent to $56.58 a barrel.

Supply curbs by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies were helping to support crude futures. On Monday, Russia said it would speed up its output cuts this month. Also this week, OPEC sources said the group would likely extend its output cut pact that has driven oil prices about 20 percent higher this year.

“That’s what holding prices, and that will ultimately drive prices higher,” Streible said.

The restart of Libya’s El Sharara oilfield pressured the oil market. The field, which has a capacity of 315,000 barrels a day in supply, had been closed since December.

“The oil market will be slightly oversupplied again unless production is cut further or unscheduled outages occur elsewhere,” Commerzbank said in a report.

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