Oil prices inch up on signs of tighter global supply

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil futures edged up on Thursday as a drop in crude exports from OPEC’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, and a draw in U.S. drilling rigs and oil inventories supported prices.

FILE PHOTO: An oil well pump jack is seen at an oil field supply yard near Denver, Colorado, U.S., February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

Brent crude futures settled at $71.97 a barrel, up 35 cents from their last close and near Wednesday’s five-month high of $72.27. Brent saw a weekly gain of 0.6 percent, marking the fourth consecutive weekly rise for the international benchmark.

In post-settlement trade, the contract added 4 cents to $72.01 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at $64.00 a barrel, up 24.00 cents. U.S. futures gained just under 0.2 percent for the week, their seventh weekly gain in a row.

Many financial markets will be closed on Friday for public holidays.

Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports fell by 277,000 barrels to just under 7 million bpd in February from the month before, according to data from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI).

U.S. crude, gasoline and distillate inventories dropped this week, with crude posting an unexpected drawdown,