By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Oil markets rose on Friday, supported by OPEC-led supply cuts which are tightening the market as well as by strong demand, but analysts cautioned that the cuts would need to be extended to counter rising U.S. output.
Brent futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $60.86 per barrel at 0524 GMT, up 24 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close. Brent has risen by 37 percent since its low in 2017 reached last June.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $54.83 a barrel, up 29 cents, or 0.5 percent, from the last close. WTI is 30 percent above its 2017-low in June.
The bullish market sentiment has been fueled this year by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, including Russia, to hold back 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in oil production to tighten markets.
While supplies are being withheld, oil demand is rising, especially in China, whose roughly 9 million bpd of imports has surpassed the United States as the world's biggest crude importer.
"China's oil demand growth appears to be accelerating," U.S. investment bank Jefferies said.
Furthermore, global crude inventories, especially in the U.S., have drawn down as oil markets have been slightly undersupplied during the past quarters, although the outlook for next year is uncertain.
The pact to withhold supplies runs to March 2018, but there is growing consensus to extend the deal to cover all of next year.
Analysts say that without an extension of the cuts, a supply glut could re-emerge, especially due to rising U.S. production.
"Our oil balance numbers imply a modest global drawdown of inventories in 2017, not nearly enough to reverse the large builds seen from 2014 to 2016. What's more, our balance points to the resumption of global stock builds in 2018," said Harry Tchilinguirian of BNP Paribas in a note.
Because of that, he said "we see no other option for OPEC and Russia than to agree to an extension of supply cuts past March 2018."
Tchilinguirian said rising U.S. output, which has jumped by more than 13 percent since middle of 2016 to 9.6 million bpd, was resulting in increased exports.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said this week that the latest U.S. crude oil export figures rose a record 2.1 million bpd.
"With the U.S. oil surplus increasingly exported to Atlantic Basin markets and further ashore to OPEC's hitherto captive markets in Asia, it may be difficult for Brent to hold on to $60 per barrel in 2018," Tchilinguirian said.
BNP Paribas said it expected WTI and Brent to average $50 per barrel and $55 per barrel, respectively, in 2018.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Chrsitian Schmollinger)