|20 February, 2020

Oil near 1-month high on supply threats, easing demand woes

Tensions in Libya that have led to a blockade of its ports and oilfields have shown no signs a resolution,

Image used for illustrative purpose. Tall metal towers at a British oil refinery and petrochemical plant.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Tall metal towers at a British oil refinery and petrochemical plant.


LONDON- Brent oil prices held near one-month highs on Thursday supported by China's efforts to boost its economy, a drop in new coronavirus cases at the epicentre of the outbreak and supply concerns in Venezuela and Libya.

Brent crude futures were up 37 cents at $59.49 a barrel by 1300 GMT. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures climbed 49 cents to $53.78 per barrel.

China's move to cut its benchmark lending rate on Thursday also helped ease worries about slowing demand in the world's second-biggest oil consumer and largest crude oil importer. 

China reported 349 new confirmed cases in Hubei province on Wednesday, the lowest in more than three weeks, while the death toll rose by 108, down from 132 the previous day. 

"The market found support in still growing optimism over a soon-to-be-felt increase in Chinese economic activity and the prospect of Venezuelan export constraints increasing," JBC Energy said.

The United States this week sanctioned a trading unit of Russian oil giant Rosneft for its ties with Venezuela's state-run PDVSA, a move which could choke the OPEC member's crude exports even further. 

At the same time, conflict in Libya that has led to a blockade of its ports and oilfields shows no signs of a resolution. 

The head of Libya's internationally recognised government Fayez al-Serraj dashed hopes of reviving peace negotiations on Wednesday after the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar shelled the port in the capital Tripoli, held by al-Serraj's government.

The shutdowns in Libya, ongoing for over a month, have slashed the OPEC member's crude production by over 1 million barrels per day. 

Brent crude may extend its gains to $60.22 per barrel, as suggested by its wave pattern and a projection analysis, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

Meanwhile, American Petroleum Institute data showed a bigger-than-expected build up in crude oil inventories helped cap price gains.

U.S. crude stocks rose by 4.16 million barrels in the week to Feb. 14, compared with analyst expectations for a build of 2.5 million barrels, according to data from the industry group on Wednesday.

"Although crude oil inventories rose by more than expected, the draws of 2.7 million bbls in gasoline stocks and 2.6 million bbls in distillate inventories keep the futures markets steady this morning," brokerage PVM said.

Official Energy Information Administration stock data is expected to come later today.

(Additional reporting by Koustav Samanta in SINGAPORE; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta) ((Ahmad.Ghaddar@thomsonreuters.com; +442075424435; Reuters Messaging: ahmad.ghaddar.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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