Boats float in front of the Vopak oil storage terminal in Johor, Malaysia. Picture: REUTERS/HENNING GLOYSTEIN
Boats float in front of the Vopak oil storage terminal in Johor, Malaysia. Picture: REUTERS/HENNING GLOYSTEIN

Singapore — 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 $57.33 a barrel at 2.56am GMT, 17c, or 0.3%, above their last settlement, but below their 2019 high of $57.55 reached the previous day.

International Brent crude futures were at $67.14 a barrel, 6c above their last close and not far off their 2019 peak, hit the day before, of $67.38 a barrel.

Analysts said that a global economic slowdown was preventing prices from surging beyond the 2019 highs seen this week.

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

Despite the slowdown in economic growth that emerged in late 2018, oil prices have been driven up this year by supply cuts led by producer cartel Opec.

Opec, as well as some non-affiliated producers such as Russia, agreed late in 2018 to cut output by 1.2-million barrels a day to prevent a large supply overhang from growing.

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

“Although there is no lack of resources, there is an increasing lack of access to them,” Britain’s Barclays bank said of the sanctions on Wednesday.

The main factor keeping oil prices from rising even further is soaring US oil production, which rose by more than 2-million barrels a day last year, to a record 11.9-million barrels a day.

The swelling output has resulted in rising US oil inventories.

US crude oil stocks rose by 1.3-million barrels in the week to February 15 to 448.5-million, according to a weekly report by the American Petroleum Institute on Wednesday.

Official oil inventory and production data is due to be published by the US Energy Information Administration after 6pm GMT on Thursday.

Reuters