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Brent oil touches $70 a barrel as supplies tighten

 Brent oil touches  a barrel as supplies tighten

By Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brent oil prices rose on Thursday, touching $70 a barrel briefly for the first time since November as expectations of tight global supply outweighed pressure from rising U.S. production and less robust global demand indicators.

International benchmark Brent futures rose 72 cents a barrel to touch an intraday high of $70.03 before retreating to $69.93 by 2:03 p.m. EDT. Brent was at its highest since Nov. 12, when it last traded above $70.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 15 cents a barrel to trade at $62.62. The contract hit $62.99 on Wednesday, also its highest since November.

Brent has gained 30 percent this year, while WTI has risen nearly 40 percent, underpinned by U.S. sanctions on Iranian and Venezuelan crude, OPEC production cuts and rising global demand.

"There is a clear bias to the upside with the supply restrictions," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

"And there's a much better than expected demand picture after the recent China and U.S. PMI numbers, along with a potential kicker from any U.S.-China trade agreement," McCarthy said.

The Caixin/Markit services purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 54.4, the highest since January 2018 and up from February's 51.1, a private business survey of China's service sector showed on Wednesday.

Trade talks between the United States and China made good headway last week in Beijing and the two sides aim to bridge differences during further talks, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Wednesday.

The refinery maintenance season is also drawing to a close and that will provide further demand for crude, said Virendra Chauhan, oil analyst at Energy Aspects in Singapore.

"The physical market is very strong and we are now starting to trade post-turnaround barrels, which should mean physical markets strengthen and flat prices should follow," Chauhan said.

But the gains were moderated during the session, with U.S. crude briefly turning negative.

"We keep having these headwinds," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital Management in New York. "Save for that one China PMI number, the economic data continues to be not great." Bearish economic indicators globally, including lower German factory orders, have limited the upside for the market, he said.

German industrial orders fell by the sharpest rate in more than two years in February, according to data released Thursday. Orders were hit by a slump in foreign demand, compounding worries that Europe's largest economy had a weak start to the year.

Crude oil inventories in the United States rose by 7.2 million barrels last week, whereas analysts had forecast a decrease.

U.S. crude production climbed by 100,000 barrels per day to a record 12.2 million bpd, government data showed.

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Aaron Sheldrick Editing by Dale Hudson, David Holmes and David Gregorio)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Apr 05, 2019 01:05:23 IST

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