SINGAPORE (Agencies): Oil prices eased on Friday as Russia hinted it may gradually increase output, after having withheld supplies in concert with producer cartel OPEC since 2017.
Brent crude futures were at $78.69 per barrel at 0208 GMT, down 10 cents from their last close, and more than 2.2 percent below the $80.50 November 2014 high they reached on May 17. Brent broke through $80 for the first time in more than three years earlier in May.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $70.62 a barrel, down 9 cents from their last settlement.
The Middle East dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), as well as a group of non-OPEC producers led by Russia, started withholding output in 2017 to tighten the market and prop up prices.
While Russia and OPEC benefit from higher oil prices, which have risen by almost 20 percent since the end of last year, their voluntary production cuts have opened the door to other producers to ramp up output and gain market share.
U.S. crude oil production has risen by more than a quarter in the last two years, to 10.73 million barrels per day (bpd). Only Russia produces more, at around 11 million bpd.
Output by producers like the United States, Canada or Brazil who are not bound by the OPEC/Russian led agreement to cut, will likely rise further as higher crude prices improve their profitability.