Oil prices held gains after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a surprise build in crude stockpiles.
U.S. commercial crude inventories rose by 1.3 million barrels in the previous week to a total of 541.3 million barrels, EIA reported.
Crude inventories in the week to May 13 fell by 1.1 million barrels to 541.9 million while analysts had expected a fall of 2.8 million barrels, American Petroleum Institute (APP) data showed on Tuesday.
International Brent crude futures were trading 19 cents above their last settlement at $49.47 a barrel at 10:36 a.m. ET (1436 GMT). The contract hit a 2016 high of $49.75 in intra-day trade the previous day.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were 28 cents higher at $48.59 a barrel, off a 2016 high of $48.76 per barrel struck on Tuesday.
Brent crude prices had seesawed on Wednesday as the impact of unplanned supply disruptions from Nigeria and Canada were tempered by rising supplies from elsewhere.
“The impact of the supply disruptions is clearly bigger than most analysts had expected,” ABN Amro chief energy economist Hans van Cleef said.
Unscheduled supply outages in Nigeria and Canada amounting to around 2 million barrels per day (bpd) have supported oil prices in recent weeks.
Unknown attackers have blown up a gas pipeline belonging to Italy’s ENI in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta, residents said on Wednesday. The attack occurred in Bayelsa state, they said.
The incident follows earlier attacks on a Chevron offshore platform and a Royal Dutch Shell pipeline claimed by a new group of militants called the Niger Delta Avengers. This week, Nigeria’s oil minister said sabotage had reduced the country’s output by 800,000 bpd to 1.4 million bpd.
“Both fundamentals and technicals are lined up for a move through the $50 hurdle,” oil brokerage PVM said in a note on Wednesday.
But analysts warned that rising supplies from other countries could weigh on prices once supply disruptions ease.
“There is … plenty of supply upside elsewhere, particularly in Iran,” Vienna-based JBC Energy said in a note on Wednesday.
Data from Iran shows oil exports from the country are recovering faster than analysts had expected.
Exports from the OPEC member country are set to surge in May to 2.1 million bpd, nearly 60 percent above their level a year ago, with European shipments recovering to about half of their pre-sanction levels, according to a source with knowledge of the country’s crude lifting plans.
Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports in March, however, fell slightly to 7.541 million bpd from 7.553 million in February, official data showed on Wednesday.
JBC also warned that a rise in oil prices towards $50 per barrel could reverse some production declines among high-cost producers, including shale drillers in the United States.