Oil rises as traders expect Venezuelan supply disruptions amid U.S. sanctions

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Oil prices rose on Wednesday as concerns about supply disruptions following U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry outweighed downward pressure from a darkening outlook for the global economy.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.54 per barrel at 0455 GMT, up 23 cents, or 0.4 percent, above their last settlement.

International Brent crude oil futures rose 37 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $61.69 per barrel.

The gains followed a 2 percent price jump in the previous session, when markets first digested the U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil exports.

Washington on Monday announced export sanctions against state-owned oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), limiting transactions between U.S. companies that do business with Venezuela through purchases of crude oil and sales of refined products.

“The sanctions so far have been mostly disruptive for refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast, who are being forced to seek alternative heavy crude supplies, and have stepped up purchases from Canada,” said Vandana Hari of Vanda Insights, an energy consultancy.

She added, however, that Canadian oil exports would be “constrained by pipeline capacity bottlenecks.

The sanctions aim to freeze sale proceeds from PDVSA’s exports of roughly 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to the United States.

Although the move pushed up oil prices, markets appeared relatively relaxed as the sanctions only affect Venezuelan supply to the United States.

“The (Venezuelan) export volumes will not be eliminated from the market, but rather rerouted to other countries,” said Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, an analyst at consultancy Rystad Energy.

With the United States dropping out as a customer for Venezuelan oil, she added that “China and India … will be able to pick up these oil volumes at great discounts.”

Despite this, some analysts said that non-U.S. oil trading firms with operations in the United States may still avoid dealing with Venezuelan oil.

The Schork Report, a daily oil and gas trading publication, said on Wednesday that many “international oil traders … have significant trading operations in the U.S. … At least in the short-term, these traders will undoubtedly quit buying from Venezuela until such a time that they are assured that they are not running afoul of U.S. sanctions.”

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Other analysts also pointed to economic weakness as countering supply-side efforts to tighten the market such as the voluntary supply restraint by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

“Pulling in the opposite (oil price) direction are heightened concerns about global growth, particularly that of China,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Denmark’s Saxo Bank.

Global economic growth and fuel consumption are expected to slow this year amid a trade dispute between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies.

Officials from Washington and Beijing are set to launch a new round of trade talks on Wednesday aimed at resolving their disputes amid which both sides have slapped hefty import tariffs on each other’s goods.

Source: Reuters

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