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Oil gains as U.S. imposes sanctions on Venezuela, global supplies weigh


LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Tuesday after Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA in a move that may curb the OPEC member’s crude exports, but price rises were capped by ample global supply and signs of a slowing Chinese economy.

International Brent crude oil futures were up 51 cents at $60.44 per barrel by 1149 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 43 cents at $52.42 per barrel.

Venezuela has the world’s biggest proven oil reserves, but its potential has not been realized due to a lack of investment. The country is also a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is implementing a supply cut deal.

“The Latin American country is predominantly the producer of heavier crude, exactly what (U.S. Gulf) refiners are thirsty for,” PVM said in a note.

“They will now have to turn elsewhere (possibly to Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Iraq) to satisfy their needs for this type of crude, which would inevitably lead to a price spike.”

Venezuela’s exports fell to little more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 from 1.6 million bpd in 2017, according to Refinitiv ship tracking data and trade sources.

The United States has been the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil despite their political differences, taking around half of the country’s export volumes, followed by India and China.

Petromatrix estimated that Venezuelan exports will drop by around 500,000 barrels a day under current conditions.

(Graphic: Venezuela crude oil exports – tmsnrt.rs/2Sfgis6)

While news of the sanctions against Venezuela made headlines, analysts said the fundamental issue for global oil trade remained plentiful supply.

Global oil supply remains high largely due to a more than 2 million bpd increase in U.S. crude oil production last year, to a record 11.9 million bpd.

“(The) focus will be intensifying on the U.S. inventory data tomorrow, with expectations of a further build in stocks – a larger build will likely see crude taking a further step downwards,” Cantor Fitzgerald Europe said in a note.

There are also concerns in the oil industry that crude demand could stutter amid an economic slowdown.

Activity in China’s vast manufacturing sector likely shrank for the second straight month in January, a Reuters poll showed.

Warnings from Caterpillar and Nvidia on Monday about weakening demand from China have concerned investors.

Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore and Colin Packham in Sydney, editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans



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