By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices crept up on Thursday amid ongoing OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions against exporters Venezuela and Iran, but gains were capped by record output and rising commercial fuel inventories.
futures were at $66.12 per barrel at 0757 GMT, up 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $56.24 per barrel, up 2 cents.
Prices are being supported by efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other countries – a grouping known as ‘OPEC+’ – to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, a strategy aimed at tightening markets.
“In our view, OPEC’s strategy is to rebalance the market as quickly as possible and exit the cuts by the end of June in order to grow production alongside shale producers in the second half of this year,” U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) said in a note on Wednesday.
U.S. sanctions against the oil industries of OPEC members Iran and Venezuela have also had an impact, traders said.
Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA this week declared a maritime emergency, citing trouble accessing tankers and personnel to export its oil amid the sanctions.
Within the U.S. sanctions against Iran, Washington granted its biggest buyers – mostly in Asia – waivers when the measures were re-introduced in November 2018 that would allow them to buy limited amounts of crude for another 180 days.
Washington has put pressure on these governments to gradually reduce their oil imports from Iran to zero, but importers remain in negotiations over potential extensions to these waivers.
SURGING U.S. SUPPLY
Despite these factors, oil remains in plentiful supply thanks to surging U.S. production, which has resulted in weaker WTI than Brent prices.
U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose much more than expected last week, with inventories up by 7.1 million barrels to 452.93 million barrels, according to a weekly report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.
“There was a surprisingly large stockbuild, which was bearish,” French bank Societe Generale (PA:) said in a note following the EIA report.
Meanwhile U.S. crude oil production remained at a record 12.1 million bpd, an increase of more than 2 million bpd since early 2018.
That, along with the easing of a transportation bottleneck for low-cost U.S. Permian Basin shale oil, could lead to higher production, Goldman Sachs said.
The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD) said on Wednesday the world economy would grow 3.3 percent in 2019, down 0.2 percentage points from the OECD’s last set of forecasts in November.
(Graphic: U.S. oil production & storage levels – https://tmsnrt.rs/2VegNR3)
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