With Trump/Iran Standoff In Focus, Oil Continues Higher

On Thursday, crude prices inched up, staying within sight of their highest levels in more than three years, as geopolitical tension in the Middle East and concerns about supply disruptions in key oil-producing nations provided support.

By 4:00AM ET (0800GMT), New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude futures tacked on 9 cents to $68.14 a barrel. Last week, the U.S. benchmark rose to $69.55 the highest since Nov. 28, 2014.

Meantime, Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., ticked up 17 cents to $74.18 a barrel. The global benchmark climbed as high as $75.47 earlier this week, a level not seen since Nov. 27, 2014.

Expectations that the United States will reinstate sanctions against Iran, a major oil producer and member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has helped push oil prices up in recent sessions.

The Trump administration has until May 12 to decide whether it will extend the sanctions renunciation linked to Iran’s nuclear deal, which would likely result in a reduction of its oil exports.

Another bullish factor supporting oil prices has been declining output in Venezuela, OPEC’s biggest producer in Latin America. In early 2016, Venezuela’s crude production has fallen from almost 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to around 1.5 million bpd due to political and economic turmoil.

Oil futures settled modestly higher on Wednesday, bouncing back from earlier weakness that was driven by data showing an unexpectedly weekly climb in U.S. crude supplies.

While domestic output, driven by shale extraction, climbed by 46,000 bpd to 10.59 million bpd, U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 2.2 million barrels in the week to April 20, to 429.74 million barrels.
Only Russia currently produces more, at around 11 million bpd.

Yet, underlying sentiment in the oil market remained positive among ongoing investor expectations that OPEC-led supply cuts would continue to rid the market of excess supplies.

In other energy trading, heating oil was steady at $2.139 a gallon, while gasoline futures were flat at $2.087 a gallon.

As traders looked ahead to weekly storage data due later in the global day amid expectations for a withdrawal of 12 billion cubic feet, natural gas futures added 0.2% to $2.813 per million British thermal units. /Investing.com

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