Oil prices dip nearly 2 per cent

iran Nigeria oilOil prices fell yesterday, after rising to five-month highs earlier this week on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)-led production cuts and free-falling Venezuelan output.

International benchmark Brent futures were down $1, or 1.4 per cent, at $70.73 a barrel. Brent hit a more than five-month high at $71.78 on Wednesday.

United States (U.S.) West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures fell $1.11, or 1.7 per cent, to $63.50 per barrel. WTI whit a high of $64.79 going back to Nov. 1 earlier this week.

Selling accelerated yesterday morning as U.S. crude dropped below $63.71 a barrel, a technically-significant level at which some funds had stops in place, triggering automatic sales, said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York.

U.S. crude inventories surged by 7 million barrels to a 17-month high of 456.6 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. However, U.S. gasoline stocks fell by a whopping 7.7 million barrels, sending U.S. gasoline futures higher by 3.5 per cent on their close on Wednesday.

U.S. crude oil production remained at a record 12.2 million bpd, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The surging production and regional refinery outages have depressed prices of cash grades, putting more pressure on U.S. crude, said Yawger.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude at Midland yesterday traded at the biggest discount to futures in almost four months after Phillips 66 closed a unit for maintenance at its Borger, Texas refinery, adding to a backlog of barrels as production climbs.

Oil markets are tightening amid the increasing effectiveness of U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, the International Energy Agency said yesterday.

U.S. sanctions and power outages pushed OPEC member Venezuela’s crude output to a long-term low of 870,000 bpd, IEA says. Two days ago, OPEC reported Venezuela’s March output sank to 732,000 bpd, citing independent sources, while figures provided by the country put production at 960,000 bpd.

Iranian supply could fall further after May if, as many expect, Washington tightens its sanctions against Tehran.

OPEC and its allies led by Russia are due to meet in Vienna on June 25-26 to set their policy.