Oil Rises Strongly Supported by Cuts, Sanctions

Brent crude could hit new 2019 highs Goldman Sachs analysts say

Oil prices rose on Thursday, with Brent crude futures hitting their highest level so far this year, after data showed a large inventory drawdown.

By 15:07 GMT, the crude Brent for the world benchmark was $ 67.22 a barrel, an increase of 55 cents or 0.82 percent over the previous closing. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were at $57.99 per barrel, up $1.12, or 2%- building on their strong gains from earlier in the day.

Oil futures rallied about 2 percent on Wednesday as USA crude inventories unexpectedly fell and an official forecast of crude oil supply growth from the world's top producer was revised lower.

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.

The National Bank of Australia said the outlook for the oil market was mixed because there were downside risks to prices due to concerns about economic growth and strong growth in USA supply, while the cutbacks in OPEC declined and the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

Several factors contributed to the idea of a tightening market, including the Energy Information Administration reporting on Wednesday that USA crude inventories fell by 3.9 million barrels last week.

The report said rising production outside the group pressed the need for continued supply restraint by OPEC+.

Forecasts slowed United States production to a record of 13 million barrels per day (bps) until the third quarter of 2020, instead of the second quarter of previous forecasts.

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Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) is looking to expand its crude oil trading activities with more spot sales and with opening offices outside Iraq, the director of SOMO's crude oil and gas marketing division, Ali Nazar Faeq Al-Shatari, said at the at the S&P Global Platts Asian Refining Summit on Thursday. Most of the reduction in USA imports was of light, sweet crude oil, as those barrels were replaced by domestic production of a similar quality.

For 2020, the government said it expected USA crude oil demand to rise by 220,000 bpd to 21.03 million bpd, unchanged from previous forecasts.

Crude oil imports have decreased in recent years as United States crude oil production has increased.

Crude inventories fell by 3.9 million barrels in the last week, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 2.7 million barrels.

In China, official statistics showed refinery crude oil use hit a record.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-affiliated allies such as Russian Federation - known as the OPEC+ alliance - pledged to withhold 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in crude supply from the start of the year to tighten markets and prop up prices.

In the report, OPEC said its oil output fell by 221,000 bpd month-on-month to 30.55 million bpd in February.

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