Oil prices climb as U.S. threatens sanctions against Venezuela

International Brent crude oil futures were at $61.89 a barrel at 0246 GMT, 80 cents, or 1.3 percent, above their last close

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SYDNEY/SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose by more than one percent on Friday as turmoil in Venezuela triggered concerns that its oil exports could soon be disrupted.

Washington on Thursday signalled it could impose sanctions on Venezuela’s crude exports as Caracas descends further into political and economic turmoil.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $61.89 a barrel at 0246 GMT, 80 cents, or 1.3 percent, above their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.90 per barrel, up 77 cents, or 1.5 percent.

Amid violent street protests, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president earlier this week, winning backing from Washington and large parts of Latin America, prompting Nicolas Maduro, the country’s leader since 2013, to break relations with the United States.

Fundamentally, however, global oil markets are still well supplied, thanks in part to surging output in the United States, where crude production rose by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) last year to a record 11.9 million bpd.

Record U.S. production would likely offset any short-term disruptions to Venezuelan supply due to possible U.S. sanctions, Britain’s Barclays on Thursday said in a note. The bank cut its 2019 average Brent crude oil forecast to $70 a barrel, down from $72 previously.

The surge in U.S. output has resulted in swelling U.S. fuel inventories.

Gasoline stocks rose for an eighth consecutive week in the week to Jan. 18, by 4.1 million barrels to a record 259.6 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a weekly report on Thursday.

Crude inventories rose by 8 million barrels.

 

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