Oil hovers near 2019 highs amid OPEC cuts

OPEC-led supply cuts and US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran bolster prices


Reuters February 21, 2019
OPEC-led supply cuts and US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran bolster prices. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON: Oil prices hovered around 2019 highs on Thursday, bolstered by OPEC-led supply cuts and US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, but were capped by slowing growth in the global economy.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $57.33 a barrel at 1145 GMT, 17 cents or 0.3% above their last settlement, and close to a 2019 high of $57.55 reached the previous day.

Brent crude futures were flat at $67.08 after touching a 2019 peak on Wednesday at $67.38.

Oil prices have been driven up this year by supply cuts led by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

OPEC and its de facto leader Saudi Arabia agreed late last year, along with producer allies such as Russia, to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to prevent a supply overhang from growing.

OPEC member Nigeria signaled on Wednesday that it would limit output after its production climbed in January.

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"Willingness of the OPEC+ group to adhere with the output cut agreement will remain supportive of oil prices in the run-up to their scheduled April meeting," said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy in London. "Sharply declining oil output from Iran and Venezuela will further prompt bullish sentiment in the market."

US sanctions have hit Iranian and Venezuelan crude exports while unrest has curbed Libyan output.

However, analysts said a global economic slowdown - signs of which emerged late last year - was preventing prices from surging beyond highs reached this week.

"Slowing economic growth will invariably lead to weakness in fuel consumption, thus eroding bullish gains for oil prices," said Benjamin Lu of brokerage Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Talks between the United States and China to resolve a trade dispute which has helped dent global growth may be progressing, though. The two sides have started to outline commitments in principle on key points of contention, sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

The main factor keeping oil prices from rising even further is soaring US output, which rose by more than two million bpd last year to a record 11.9 million bpd.

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