Oil Rises Strongly Supported by Cuts, Sanctions

USA crude futures briefly hit a 2019 high on Friday but later retreated along with benchmark Brent oil as worries about the global economy and robust US production put a brake on prices.

The Bloomberg story, citing unnamed sources, curbed a price rally fueled by production curbs by OPEC and its partners along with US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela that have tightened global supplies this year.

International Brent crude oil futures marked a 2019-peak of $67.80 per barrel in Asian morning hours. Other factors that have been influencing oil prices include the current blackout in Venezuala alongside the state of the ongoing trade talks between Washington and Beijing.

It said a comfortable supply cushion by OPEC could prevent any price rally in case of possible disruptions and that non-OPEC oil output growth led by the United States should ensure demand is met. Since then, crude oil imports have increased slightly, averaging 7.7 million bpd in 2018.

Gasoline inventories were down 4.62 million barrels last week, almost twice the expected drop.

"With OPEC's cuts in full swing. persistent supply issues and a deteriorating picture on Venezuela, oil is looking well supported", said Jasper Lawler, head of research at futures brokerage London Capital Group. Thursday will see a new monthly oil report from OPEC get released, and the IEA is expected to publish a report this Friday.

OPEC's bearish demand outlook was offset by its apparent resolve to extend crude output cuts, agreed to by its members and allied producers, which have helped oil prices rise more than 20 percent this year.

In Venezuela, oil production and exports have been disrupted by a political and economic crisis that has caused massive blackouts and supply shortages, while Washington has barred USA companies from doing business with the Venezuelan government, including state-owned oil firm PDVSA.

Oil prices edged higher on Wednesday, supported by planned cuts to Saudi exports and a reduced forecast for U.S. crude output.

WTI has been recovering from the recent lows below the 55 handle scored earlier this month and has been knocking on the door of a critical technical level around recent highs en route to test territory in the mid 58 handle and highest levels since mid-November.

Vanessa Coleman

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