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US-Iran tensions, Opec's indication of continuing cuts lead to oil surge

Opec+, an alliance of Opec and some non-member nations, had in January announced to cut output for six months to prevent a decline in prices

Aaron Sheldrick | Reuters  |  Tokyo 

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rose to multi-week highs on Monday after Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) indicated it will likely maintain production cuts that have helped support prices this year, while tensions continued to escalate in the Middle East.

Brent crude was up by 96 cents, or 1.3%, at $73.17 a barrel by 0227 GMT, having earlier touched $73.40, the highest since April 26.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was 82 cents, 1.3%, higher at $63.58 a barrel. The benchmark reached $63.81 earlier, the highest since May 1.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday there was consensus among the and allied producers to drive down crude inventories "gently" but he would remain responsive to the needs of a "fragile market".

United Arab Emirates (UAE) Energy Minister earlier told reporters that producers were capable of filling any market gap and that relaxing supply cuts was not "the right decision".

Meanwhile, President threatened Tehran on Sunday, tweeting that a conflict would be the "official end" of Iran, while said it was ready to respond with "all strength" and that it was up to to avoid war.

The rhetoric follows last week's attacks on Saudi assets and the firing of a rocket on Sunday into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" that exploded near the embassy.

"Al-Falih and the both put paid to suggestions of increasing production over the weekend and then President Trump essentially telling to bring it on, was a perfect short-term storm for oil prices," Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro, told Reuters by email.

Opec, Russia and other non-member producers, an alliance known as Opec+, agreed to reduce output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from January 1 for six months to prevent inventories from increasing and weakening prices.

"This second half, our preference is to maintain production management to keep inventories on their way declining gradually, softly but certainly declining towards normal levels," al-Falih told a news conference after and other producers met.

Russian Energy Minister earlier said an easing of cuts had been discussed and the supply situation would be clearer in a month, including from countries under sanctions.

Another bullish signal was a second week of declines in US drilling operations, with energy companies cutting oil rigs to the lowest since March 2018.

The rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by 3 to 802, General Electric Co's Baker Hughes energy services unit said on Friday.

First Published: Mon, May 20 2019. 10:33 IST