Oil hits 2019 high on OPEC cuts, concerns over demand ease

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Oil hit a 2019 high above $69 a barrel on Tuesday on the prospect that more sanctions against Iran and further Venezuelan disruptions could deepen an OPEC-led supply cut, and as the market became less worried that demand may slow.

The United States is considering more sanctions against Iran, whose oil exports have been halved by existing measures, an official said. A key crude terminal in Venezuela, also under US sanctions, has halted operations again.

Brent crude touched $69.50, the highest since mid-November, and at 1153 GMT was down 2 cents at $68.99 a barrel. US crude was up 43 cents at $62.02, rising above $62 for the first time since early November.

“The supply cuts have been there for a while but Venezuela is not improving,” said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix. “That is taking a lot of oil away from the market.”

Further supply losses from Iran and Venezuela could widen an OPEC-led production cut that took effect in January, designed to prevent a price-sapping rise in inventories.

This week’s reports on US supplies are expected to show crude inventories fell, a sign that the OPEC curbs are having the impact producers intended.

Six analysts polled by Reuters estimated, on average, that crude stocks fell by 1.2 million barrels in the week to March 29. The first of this week’s supply reports, from the American Petroleum Institute, is due at 2030 GMT.

Oil’s pattern on the price charts could lead to further gains. Brent is trading just below the 200-day moving average and a move above this mark would provide additional technical support, Jakob said.

Healthy data on the world’s biggest economies, the United States and China, also bolstered prices.

Figures showing a rebound in US factory activity in March and a return to growth in Chinese manufacturing eased concern that an economic slowdown could weaken oil demand.

“China’s PMI number was the most significant monthly increase since 2012, which should ease concerns around a potential threat to oil demand,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading and market strategy at SPI Asset Management.

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