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Oil hits 3-month high on OPEC cuts, U.S. sanctions on Iran, Venezuela

Oil prices rose to their highest levels since November 2018 on Monday, lifted by OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures pushed through 56 dollars per barrel for the first time this year, hitting 56.13 dollars a barrel before edging back to 56.02 dollars a barrel by 0112 GMT, still up 0.8 per cent from their last settlement.

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International Brent crude futures hit a high of 66.78 dollars per barrel before easing to 66.65 dollars per barrel, up 0.6 per cent from their last close.

For both benchmarks, these were their highest levels since Nov. 20, 2018.

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The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), as well as some non-affiliated producers like Russia, agreed late last year to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to prevent a large supply overhang from swelling more.

Further pushing up crude prices have been U.S. sanctions against oil exporters and OPEC-members Iran and Venezuela.

Traders said financial markets, including crude futures, were also generally supported by hopes that the United States and China would soon resolve their trade disputes, which have dragged on global economic growth.

“Positive signs in the U.S.-China trade talks helped boost sentiment across markets,” ANZ bank said on Monday.

At least partly offsetting supply falls has been a surge in U.S. crude oil production by more than 2 million bpd in 2018, to a record 11.9 million bpd.

And there are signs that U.S. output will rise further.

U.S. energy firms on Feb. 12 increased the number of oil rigs looking for new production by three, to a total of 857, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in a weekly report lon Feb. 15.

That means the U.S. rig count is higher than a year ago when fewer than 800 rigs were active. (Reuters/NAN)


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