Oil prices rose to their highest levels since late-2014 on Monday, boosted by Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis and a looming decision on whether the United States will re-impose sanctions on Iran.
According to Reuters, US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 80 cents to $70.52 per barrel.
Monday was the first time since November 2014 that WTI had climbed above $70 per barrel. Brent crude oil futures were at $75.63 per barrel at 0909 GMT, up 76 cents from their last close. Earlier in the session, they touched their highest since November 2014 at $75.89 a barrel.
China’s Shanghai crude oil futures, launched in March, broke their dollar-converted record-high, rising as far as $72.54 on Monday.
The increases came despite nine US oil rigs bringing the total count to 834, energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday.
Analysts said a crisis in Venezuela, a major oil exporter, underpinned prices.
“The growth in production in the US is being counterbalanced by the simultaneous decline in Venezuela,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.
US oil firm ConocoPhillips has moved to take key Caribbean assets of Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA to enforce a $2 billion arbitration award, actions that could further impair PDVSA’s declining oil production and exports.
Venezuela’s output has halved since the early 2000s to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd), as the South American country has failed to invest enough in its oil industry.
Widespread expectations that US President Donald Trump will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear pact added a further risk premium.
Iran re-emerged as a major oil exporter in 2016 after international sanctions against it were lifted, and Trump has a May 12 deadline to determine whether to extend sanction waivers.
“It seems that the bureaucratic wheels are turning in Washington to prepare for a sanctions snapback,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Helima Croft said in a note, adding that “the extraterritorial nature of U.S. sanctions, which cover energy, shipbuilding, finance, trade, insurance, etc., means that…Iran’s oil exports could credibly be curtailed by 200,000-300,000 bpd.”
On Monday, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said he is concerned about low oil industry investment and potential shortages in the future.
But US output has soared by more than a quarter in the last two years, to 10.62 million bpd. It will likely rise further this year as its energy firms keep drilling for more.