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EIA: U.S. oil output drops in December, shale states show fall

NEW YORK -- U.S. crude oil production fell for a third month in December due to declines in the biggest shale-producing states, suggesting the 19-month price rout has finally taken a toll on output, although the fall was offset by a rise offshore.

NEW YORK -- U.S. crude oil production fell for a third month in December due to declines in the biggest shale-producing states, suggesting the 19-month price rout has finally taken a toll on output, although the fall was offset by a rise offshore.

Production nationwide in December fell 43,000 barrels per day to 9.26 million bpd, the lowest figure since November 2014, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's petroleum supply monthly report on Monday.

In Texas, which is home to the Permian and Eagle Ford basins, output fell by 65,000 bpd to 3.34 million bpd, the biggest monthly decline since May 2015, putting production at the lowest level since October 2014. North Dakota production dropped by 27,000 bpd to 1.14 million bpd, the biggest monthly decline since January 2015 and the lowest output since August 2014.

Gulf of Mexico output jumped 112,000 bpd in December after falling by about 81,000 bpd in November.

In total, oil production rose by 722,000 bpd to 9.43 million bpd in 2015 compared with a rise of 1.25 million bpd to 8.71 million bpd in 2014, the data showed.

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The figures, though months behind, offer one of the most closely monitored data sets by traders and analysts trying to pinpoint the first signs of a pivotal bust in the six-year U.S. shale boom.

With global oil prices hovering near a decade low around $30 a barrel, many believe the output decline has already begun. However, the pace of the drop is still unknown.

"The fall in U.S. shale production, particularly in Texas and North Dakota, will continue to overshadow the growth in the Gulf as shale production continues to fall at a steeper and steeper pace in the months to come," said Michael Tran, director of energy strategy at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

The declines, however, may have been affected by extreme weather conditions, including the warmest Alberta winter in 90 years and bursts of cold in Texas related to El Niño, experts say.

Permian Basin producers like Apache Corp and Occidental Petroleum Corp said earlier this month that they suffered some production downtime due to severe weather.

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