Brent crude oil price eases back from $70-barrel at three-year high

North Sea crude oil prices slipped back from three-year highs yesterday as traders took profits from the recent rally – but healthy demand underpinned prices near $70-barrel – a level not seen since the market slump on the way down in 2014.

Fundamentally, oil prices have been pushed higher by an effort led by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to withhold production since January last year. The cuts are set to last through 2018.

The restraint has coincided with healthy oil demand, pushing up crude by almost 15 percent since early December.

Brent futures LCOc1 fell $1.05, or 1.5 percent, to $69.21 a barrel after hitting a session low of $68.92. Traders said Brent, the global benchmark, was well supported overall at around $70.

Brent crude had earlier hit a peak of $70.37 on Monday, matching a high from December 2014 at the start of a three-year market decline.

In a market research note, US bank Goldman Sachs said las night: “We see increasing upside risks to our $62-barrel Brent forecast for the coming months.”

Other banks, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Societe Generale and Morgan Stanley, have raised their price forecasts.

Commenting on the  three-year high, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the oil market was not yet balanced and that the global deal to cut output should continue as the price rise could be due to cold weather.

The US oil rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose by 10 oil rigs last week to 752 and is much higher than a year ago when only 522 rigs were active.

17 Jan 2018

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