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Oil hovers near 2019 highs from Opec cuts and US sanctions

But slowing growth in the global economy is keeping prices from surging beyond this week's highs


OIL prices hovered close to 2019 highs on Thursday, bolstered by Opec-led supply cuts and US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, but were prevented from rising further by slowing growth in the global economy.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at US$57.39 a barrel at 0742 GMT - 23 cents or 0.4 per cent above their last settlement, and close to their 2019 high of US$57.55 reached the previous day.

International Brent crude futures were at US$67.20 per barrel, 12 cents, or 0.2 per cent above their last close and not far off their 2019 peak, hit the day before, of US$67.38 per barrel.

Analysts said a global economic slowdown was preventing prices from surging beyond highs reached this week.

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Benjamin Lu of brokerage Phillip Futures in Singapore said: "Slowing economic growth will invariably lead to weakness in fuel consumption, thus eroding bullish gains for oil prices."

Despite the slowdown in economic growth that emerged in late 2018, oil prices have been driven up this year by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

Opec, as well as some non-affiliated producers such as Russia, agreed late last year to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to prevent a large supply overhang from growing.

A presidential spokesman for Opec member Nigeria said in a statement on Wednesday that the country was willing to limit output "so that prices (for oil) would go up". Nigeria is part of the supply pact but its output actually climbed in January.

Another price driver has been US sanctions against oil exporters Iran and Venezuela.

Britain's Barclays bank said of the sanctions on Wednesday: "Although there is no lack of resources, there is an increasing lack of access to them." The main factor keeping oil prices from rising even further is soaring US oil production, which rose by more than 2 million bpd last year, to a record 11.9 million bpd.

The swelling output has resulted in rising US oil inventories.

US crude oil stocks rose by 1.3 million barrels in the week to Feb 15 to 448.5 million, the American Petroleum Institute's weekly report said on Wednesday.

Official oil inventory and production data is due to be published by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) after 1800 GMT on Thursday. REUTERS

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