* Brent, WTI crude futures prices mark highest since November
* Falling China car sales point to weaker demand
* Rising U.S. output could undermine OPEC efforts
* U.S. crude output & drilling levels:
By Amanda Cooper
LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Oil rose for a fifth day on Monday, on
track for its strongest first quarter in eight years, thanks to a
growing belief among investors that OPEC's supply cuts will prevent a
build-up in unused fuel, though concern over China's economy tempered
Brent futures were last up 16 cents at $66.41 a barrel by 1850
GMT, having touched a 2019 high of $66.83 earlier in the day, while
U.S. futures rose 47 cents to $56.04 a barrel.
Oil has risen nearly 25 percent so far this year and is on course
for its strongest first-quarter performance since 2011, thanks largely
to a commitment by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting
Countries and allies to cut output.
"Our numbers ... do tell us that we are looking at the
tightest H1 crude balance in many years and, as such, a certain degree
of price support does simply make sense for the time being,"
consultancy JBC Energy said in a note.
Refiners around the world are also having to pay more to secure
supplies of the medium, or heavy, sour crudes produced by Iran and
Venezuela, both of which are under U.S. sanctions.
The broader financial markets eased a little after data showing a
drop in Chinese car sales in January raised concerns about the world's
Some of this weakness rubbed off on the oil market, but analysts
said the overall trend in crude prices remained convincingly upwards
"There are lots of 'ifs' and 'buts' that could have a
profound impact on oil prices; just think of the unpredictable Donald
Trump, Brexit, trade talks or an eventual pick-up in Libyan and/or
Venezuelan production," said PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga.
"Latest available data, however, point in the direction of a
tightening market. It is not recommended to swim against the current
and presently the 'oil' river is flowing north."
Some analysts said the continued rise in U.S. oil production could
act as a drag on the current rally.
U.S. energy companies last week increased the number of oil rigs
looking for new supply by three to a total of 857, energy services
firm Baker Hughes said in a report last Friday.
"We view the current price rise as exaggerated and see
growing correction potential," Commerzbank said in a note.
"The fact that oil production in the U.S. is currently rising
significantly more sharply than previously expected is being
completely ignored at present."
GRAPHIC: U.S. oil rig count and crude production levels
(Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by David Goodman
and David Evans)
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