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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Oil Prices Hit New '99 Highs

LONDON -- Buoyant oil prices hit 17-month highs Wednesday as the leading advocate for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' oil output cuts this year, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, was retained in his post.

London August North Sea Brent futures rose 27 cents to $17.14 a barrel after Naimi kept his job in a Saudi cabinet reshuffle.

"The oil market is pleased to see one of the main men behind OPEC supply cuts keeping his job and policy continuity assured," said Peter Gignoux, head of the energy desk at brokers Salomon Smith Barney in London.

Naimi in March helped convince other producers of the need for a hefty round of further output curbs to lift prices from the lowest level in a generation.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, wants to see Brent back in the range $18 to $20 after a slump to less than $10 in February.

Surprisingly strict compliance among producers with the new output limits has gone a long way to realizing that target.

OPEC President Youssef Yousfi on Wednesday said the oil market now looked better balanced but he warned that more time was needed to erase surplus stockpiles.

Weekly U.S. data showing lower stocks of gasoline in the week to June 11 helped underpin Wednesday's price gains.