LINED UP: An employee stands in front of oil barrels at Royal Dutch Shell’s lubricants-blending plant in the town of Torzhok, Russia. Picture: REUTERS
LINED UP: An employee stands in front of oil barrels at Royal Dutch Shell’s lubricants-blending plant in the town of Torzhok, Russia. Picture: REUTERS

Singapore — Crude oil prices edged lower on Monday after sharp gains during the previous session but were supported by the expectation of shrinking supply and signs that China-US trade tensions could ease.

International Brent crude oil futures on Monday were down 20c, or 0.32% at 3.39am GMT to $62.54 a barrel, after closing up 3.14% in the previous session to their highest close since November 21.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $55.13 a barrel, down 13c, or 0.24%, from their last settlement. WTI settled 2.73% higher in the last session at its highest close since November 19.

Output declines from production cartel Opec as they make good on their pact to curb a supply overhang were compounded by falling US oil rig counts and sanctions on Venezuelan oil sales.

“While Venezuela’s output reportedly rose last month, fresh US sanctions on the country could see 0.5%-1% of global supply curtailed,” said Vivek Dhar, commodities analyst for Commonwealth Bank of Australia in a note on Monday.

The sanctions will sharply limit oil transactions between Venezuela and other countries and are similar to those imposed on Iran in 2018, experts said after examining details posted by the treasury department.

Opec oil supply fell in January by the largest amount in two years despite sluggish production declines from Russia, according to a Reuters survey.

However, Russian oil output in January missed the target for the output cuts, energy ministry data showed on Saturday. Production last month declined to 11.38-million barrels a day, but that was only down by 35,000 barrels a day (bbl/day)from its October 2018 level that is the baseline for the pact.

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak has said the country’s overall cuts from the October baseline would total 50,000bbl/day in January. Russia has pledged to reduce oil output by 230,000bbl/day from October.

US energy firms last week cut the number of oil rigs operating to their lowest in eight months as some drillers followed through on plans to spend less on new wells this year.

“The collapse in oil prices late last year has resulted in more cautious spending by US oil explorers,” said Dhar.

Meanwhile, the hope for thawing China-US relations have also helped ease concerns over slowing economic growth.

“While the US and China have yet to reach a deal, markets were buoyed by reports that they have made significant progress,” ANZ Bank said in a research note.

US President Donald Trump last week said he would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, perhaps twice, in the coming weeks to try to seal a comprehensive trade deal with Beijing, but acknowledged it was not yet clear whether a deal could be reached.

Reuters