Published On: Thu, Mar 28th, 2019

Oil prices inch down as U.S. crude stocks climb

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FILE PHOTO: An offshore oil rig is seen in the Caspian Sea near Baku
FILE PHOTO: An offshore oil rig is seen in the Caspian Sea near Baku, Azerbaijan, October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor/File Photo

March 28, 2019

By Shadia Nasralla

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices were down on Thursday, extending losses into a second consecutive session following a surprise rise in U.S. crude inventories.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $67.55 a barrel at 0929 GMT, down 28 cents from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $59.21 per barrel, down 20 cents from their last settlement.

U.S. crude inventories rose last week by 2.8 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 1.2 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

Demand concerns on the back of economic jitters linked to the U.S.-Chinese trade war have also capped prices.

In a fresh development, China has made unprecedented proposals on a range of issues, including forced technology transfer, as the two sides work to end their protracted dispute.

Overall, bullish sentiment underpins the market, which has seen Brent rise almost 30 percent this year.

“Today’s fall does not derail the short-term bullish argument that both the OPEC+ production cuts and supply outages will outweigh the global growth concerns and rising U.S. production,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst, OANDA.

Oil prices have found support from efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-affiliated allies like Russia, known as OPEC+, to trim output as well as plummeting Venezuelan output.

On top of U.S. sanctions, power cuts have crippled Venezuela’s oil industry.

The country’s main oil export port of Jose and four crude upgraders, needed to convert Venezuela’s heavy oil into exportable grades, have been halted since Monday, industry sources said.

U.S. sanctions have also hit Iranian crude exports.

In early May, analysts expect the United States will extend some sanction waivers on Iranian oil but might reduce the number of countries receiving them.

The 180-day exemptions were granted in November to eight countries – China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea.

Washington seeks to bring Iranian oil exports to zero.

“Enjoy it whilst it lasts. The upcoming six months will bring relatively healthy demand for OPEC oil,” PVM’s Tamas Varga said in a note.

“If the unplanned supply cuts remain in place… oil prices should edge towards $75/bbl basis Brent in coming months as global inventories will draw.”

(Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney and Koustav Samanta in Singapore; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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