Oil holds near 2019 peak as global supplies tighten

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O&G stocks actively traded as crude oil prices hover around 2019 highs

Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 0.6% to $68 a barrel, which is its highest price level in four months.

The value of a futures contract for WTI crude for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) receded by $0.25 to $59.98 per barrel.

"The across-the-board inventory declines in crude oil and refined products highlight the tightening market". US refineries operated at 88.9 percent of their operable capacity.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that he would likely keep tariffs on Chinese goods for a "substantial period" until he is sure Beijing is complying with any trade agreement. The US aims to cut Iran's crude exports by about 20% to below 1 million bpd from May by requiring importing countries to reduce purchases to avoid US sanctions.

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs grew during the week ending March 15, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday. That compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 309,000 barrels.

Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline stocks fell by by 1.9 million barrels, while inventories of distillate fuels like diesel ticked down by about 300,000 barrels.

Opec's crude output fell from a mid-2018 peak of 32.8 million barrels per day (Mmbpd), to 30.7 Mmbpd in February.

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Tehran has vowed to keep exporting oil despite USA efforts to reduce its shipments to zero, but the export decline could be another indicator of economic pressure from the embargo.

Crude futures have been supported this year by OPEC's deal with Russian Federation and other producers to keep 1.2 million bpd off the market in order to drain a global oversupply.

"Venezuelan exports to the US have finally dried up, after the sanctions were placed on them by the USA administration earlier this year", ANZ bank said on Thursday.

However, an eight-month trade war between China and the United States has anxious global markets already concerned by signs of a slowdown in economic growth this year.

For the oil market, the drop in Iranian shipments will add to an OPEC-led oil supply cut and comes ahead of USA plans to clamp down further on Iranian exports from May, after ending of the current round of fairly generous waivers from sanctions. This is when Washington will clarify its process for reducing oil exports in Iran and Venezuela.

The U.S. -China trade dispute continues to weigh on demand also due to its impact on the global economy.

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