UPDATE 5-Oil strengthens after record stockpile draw at U.S. crude hub

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U.S. crude inventories fall 6.9 mln barrels last week – EIA

* Cushing crude stockpiles drop by largest amount on record -EIA

* OPEC forecasts higher output from U.S., other non-OPEC

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* Nigeria’s Niger Delta Avengers threaten oil sector attacks (Adds U.S. inventory data, updates prices, changes dateline, previously LONDON)

By Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Oil rebounded after slipping below $69 a barrel on Thursday, supported by a record drawdown of U.S. crude stockpiles at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub, despite concerns that OPEC-led output cuts will increase supply from the United States.

Crude is just below its highest price since December 2014, supported by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and concern that unrest in producer nations such as Nigeria could further curb output.

U.S. crude inventories fell 6.9 million barrels last week, compared with forecasts for a 3.5 million-barrel draw, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. Crude supplies at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub for U.S. crude futures fell 4.2 million barrels in the week, the largest draw since at least 2004.

After falling the previous week due to cold weather, U.S. crude production rose to 9.75 million barrels per day last week.

OPEC’s monthly report on Thursday raised its forecast for oil supply from non-members in 2018.

“Higher oil prices are bringing more supply to the market, particularly in North America and specifically tight oil,” OPEC said in the report, using another term for shale.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, pared losses, trading at $69.30, down 8 cents a barrel, by 11:26 a.m. EST (1626 GMT), after earlier slipping to $68.80 a barrel earlier in the session. On Monday it touched $70.37, the highest since December 2014. U.S. crude was up 1 cent at $63.98, having hit its highest since December 2014 on Tuesday.

Brent has risen from $61 a barrel in early December and some analysts say the rally may be about to run out of steam.

“The upside is now limited for oil prices,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at brokerage Forex.com. “U.S. oil producers will ramp up production in the coming months.”

OPEC’s report follows a forecast from the EIA on Tuesday that it expects U.S. oil output to continue to rise in February with production from shale increasing by 111,000 bpd.

The agency previously said U.S. output could reach 10 million bpd in February and 11 million bpd in 2019.

Even so, traders said prices were unlikely to fall far due to the OPEC-led curbs and the risk of further disruptions.

Militant group Niger Delta Avengers threatened to attack Nigeria’s oil sector in the next few days, potentially hampering supplies in Africa’s largest exporter.

“The impact of such a threat, if carried out, would be significant on the global supply and demand balance,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM. “The market is still sensitive to geopolitical developments.”

Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore and Alex Lawler in London; Editing by Dale Hudson and Marguerita Choy

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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