Oil prices climbing towards five-month high

US crude oil moving average

Oil prices rose to fresh highs for the year on Tuesday, after a USA official said Washington is considering more sanctions on Iran and a key Venezuelan export terminal halted operations.

The sun sets behind an oil pump outside Saint-Fiacre, near Paris, France March 28, 2019.

Brent crude rose 26 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to $69.27 a barrel by 0025 GMT, having earlier touched $69.29, a new high for 2019. Their session high was $69.96, the strongest since November 12, when they traded above $70.

West Texas Intermediate Crude futures for May ended down $0.12, or 0.2%, at $62.46 a barrel, after rising to a fresh five-month high of $62.98 a barrel.

Distillate inventories decreased by 1.9 million barrels, compared to an expected a draw of 506,000 barrels for the week.

This week's reports on USA supplies are expected to show crude inventories fell, a sign that the Opec curbs are having the impact producers intended. Crude oil processing remained lower than usual.

Oil prices have been supported for much of 2019 by efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-affiliated allies like Russian Federation, known as OPEC+, who have pledged to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of supply this year.

Global benchmark Brent crude increased to $70 on Wednesday, while WTI saw prices of $62.85. "At the end of the day, this market is really bulled up and it wants to trade higher".

Supply from OPEC countries hit a four-year low in March, a Reuters survey found earlier this week.

OPEC, Russia and other non-members - an alliance known as OPEC+ - agreed in December to reduce supply by 1.2 million bpd from January 1.

The U.S. has also instructed oil trading houses and refiners to further cut dealings with Venezuela or face sanctions themselves, even if the trades are not prohibited by published U.S. sanctions, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Tuesday's performance is further indication that the gains are driven mainly by sentiment and rumour (for example, an unnamed official told media that the USA is considering more Iranian sanctions), and trading later this week will likely be influenced again when us inventory data is released and compared to the most unreliable of yardsticks, analytical surveys undertaken by media (a Reuters poll estimates that stocks fell 400,000 barrels last week).

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