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Oil hits 2019 high as supply squeeze looms; Brent nears $70 per barrel

 Oil hits 2019 high as supply squeeze looms; Brent nears  per barrel

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices on Tuesday hit their highest level so far in 2019, with Brent crude approaching $70 a barrel, on the prospect that more sanctions against Iran and further Venezuelan disruptions could deepen an OPEC-led supply cut.

Brent futures reached a session peak at $69.51 a barrel, the highest since Nov. 13. The global benchmark rose 36 cents, or 0.52 percent, to settle at $69.37 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 99 cents, or 1.61 percent, to settle at $62.58 a barrel, after touching $62.72, its highest level since Nov. 7.

The United States is considering more sanctions against Iran, the fourth-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), an official said.

Meanwhile, a crude terminal in Venezuela, also under U.S. sanctions, halted operations again due to power problems.

"The latest driver appears to be the idea that tightened supplies are going to create a stronger fundamental picture," said Gene McGillian, director of market research at Tradition Energy. "The market keeps pushing higher."

However, Venezuela stabilized exports in March after shipments fell about 40 percent in February from January.

But further supply losses from Iran and Venezuela could widen an OPEC-led production cut. OPEC supply hit a four-year low in March, a Reuters survey found, due to the involuntary declines and as top exporter Saudi Arabia cut more than agreed.

(GRAPHIC: OPEC oil supply cuts - March 2019, https://tmsnrt.rs/2CI42Y7)

Russia, the biggest non-OPEC producer in the so-called OPEC+ group, has yet to reach its production-cutting target. Russian oil output declined to 11.3 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, energy ministry data showed.

While the country's output was down by around 112,000 bpd from the October 2018 level, Russia has pledged to cut output by 228,000 bpd from that level.

Investors will watch weekly U.S. crude inventory data. Analysts in a Reuters poll estimated that stocks fell 400,000 barrels last week. [EIA/S]

Data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute is due out at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT). U.S. government data will be released on Wednesday.

Oil's pattern on the price charts could lead to further gains. Brent is just below the 200-day moving average and a move above this mark would boost technical support, said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix.

Investors have worried for months that weak global economic data could mean slowing slow demand for crude, but healthier data this week from the United States and China eased concerns about the economy and bolstered prices.

Figures showed a rebound in U.S. factory activity in March and a return to growth in Chinese manufacturing.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Marguerita Choy, David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)

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

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Updated Date: Apr 03, 2019 02:05:19 IST

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