February 18, 2019 - 9:58 AM EST
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Crude futures rise as global politics is expected to affect supply

Feb. 18 (UPI) --

Crude oil prices appeared headed for a fifth-consecutive positive session with investor expectation that prices may see new gains ahead on geopolitics affecting supply.

West Texas Intermediate crude future prices as of 8:50 a.m. EST traded at $56.52 per barrel or 1 percent higher while Brent crude futures traded at $66.41 per barrel or 0.2 percent higher.

WTI crude oil prices have seen increases since closing at $52.41 per barrel in the last week.

The market overwhelmingly views oil price risk to the upside with funds being net buyers of Brent futures and options in 9 out of the last 10 weeks, according to CFTC Data, Amir Hekmati, oil futures spec trader at TradeFlow, told UPI.

With Saudi production cuts in effect, sanctions on Iran, and Venezuela in place and taking effect, and signs of a possible trade deal with China, the view is positive and there are not many sellers, he added.

Saudi Arabia has led efforts by OPEC to reduce production in a bid to help crude prices. OPEC agreed in Vienna on Dec. 7 to jointly reduce production by 800,000 barrels per day starting in January. Some non-OPEC nations, led by Russia, agreed to match the cut with 400,000 barrels.

The United States last week imposed sanctions against Venezuela in a bid to put pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The sanctions include a ban against U.S. companies, including Venezuelan subsidiary Citgo, preventing them from making funds from Venezuelan crude available to Maduro and instead insisting the payments be made to National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.

Prices have seen gains in recent days, in part, on the possibility of a widespread political conflict in Venezuela. Guaido, who wants Maduro to relinquish power, has organized masses of people that will seek to introduce several tones of humanitarian aid to the country on February 23. Maduro, with the backing of the military, rejects the aid.

As for Iran, the United States issued waivers in November so that nations could continue buying its oil despite nuclear-related sanctions announced in May. The waivers expire in March and a decision by the United States on whether it would renew them or not would affect prices.

The path to $65 WTI looks very possible, possibly by April, Hekmati said.

Source: United Press International (February 18, 2019 - 9:58 AM EST)

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