Oil set for record bear run as OPEC output grows

Oil fell below $49 a barrel on Friday and was on course for its seventh straight month of declines, the longest such bear run on record as a supply glut showed no signs of easing with OPEC increasing production in January.

London: Oil fell below $49 a barrel on Friday and was on course for its seventh straight month of declines, the longest such bear run on record as a supply glut showed no signs of easing with OPEC increasing production in January.

Benchmark Brent crude prices have kept within a band of $45-$50 a barrel since hitting a six-year low on Jan. 13, but analysts have not ruled out further declines as global inventories continue to rise.

Supplies from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) rose in January to 30.37 million barrels per day (bpd), a Reuters survey showed, a sign key members are standing firm in refusing to prop up prices by cutting output.

Data this week also showed U.S. crude oil inventories had reached their highest levels since the 1930s.

Brent oil futures were down 20 cents at $48.93 per barrel at 1412 GMT, while benchmark U.S. WTI futures were down 10 cents at $44.43 a barrel.

Brent is on track to post a 14 percent fall for January, marking a seventh month of decline since reaching a peak of around $115 in late June and the longest-running monthly drop since Reuters records started in 1988.

A Reuters survey of analysts showed on Friday that oil is likely to continue falling before posting only a mild recovery in the second half of this year, with prices set to average less in 2015 than during the global financial crisis.

The survey of 33 economists and analysts forecast North Sea Brent crude would average $58.30 a barrel in 2015, down $15.70 from last month`s poll, in the biggest month-on-month revision since prices last collapsed in 2008-2009.

"The fundamentals remain weak, with seasonal refining maintenance resulting in stock builds on what is an already high base for stocks," said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at London-based Energy Aspects.

The International Energy Agency this month said a price rebound could take some time despite increasing signs of the downturn easing, with lower North America shale production and higher demand due to the low prices.

The market found some support in news of renewed violence in oil producer Iraq, where Islamic State militants struck at Kurdish forces southwest of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

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