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Oil steady amid Vienna output talks

Brent crude futures just below $57 as Opec and major non-Opec producers meet

Oil prices were steady on Friday, as investors waited to see whether major producers meeting in Vienna would back an extension to output cuts beyond March next year.

Brent crude futures were up 28 cents at $56.71 a barrel at 1:51pm GMT, their highest since March.

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 2 cents, at $50.53 per barrel.

Some ministers from Opec, Russia and other producers were meeting in Vienna to discuss their deal to cut supplies that runs to March.

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Opec and its allies have been considering extending the deal beyond the end of March.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Opec and other oil producers would not take a decision until January, while other ministers suggested a decision could come this year.

"I believe that January is the earliest date when we can actually, credibly speak about the state of the market," he said, emphasizing that Opec and other major producers needed to work together on a strategy from April 2018.

Oil prices have gained more than 15% in the past three months to trade above $56 a barrel, suggesting the deal is making progress in getting rid of excess supply

Kuwaiti Oil Minister Essam al-Marzouq, who chaired Friday's meeting, said that since the supply cuts "the oil market had markedly improved ... and is evidently well on its way towards rebalancing."

Nigeria and Libya, which have been exempt from the curbs, were also invited to attend the talks.

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Despite the current output restraints, increasing US oil production has curbed price gains. Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico have also pushed up crude inventories as some US refineries have been shut by flooding.

The Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported US crude production rose to 9.51 million barrels per day in the week ended 15 September from 8.78 million bpd a week earlier.

Commerzbank said in a note oil prices were finding some support from tensions sparked by plans by the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan to hold an independence referendum.

Iraq's government and Western powers oppose holding such a vote in the oil producing region.