Oil set for biggest quarterly rise since 2009 amid Opec cuts

Analysts say weak economic outlook could weigh on oil prices soon

FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind an oil pump outside Saint-Fiacre, near Paris, France March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo
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Oil prices rose on Friday amid the ongoing Opec-led supply cuts and US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, putting crude markets on track for their biggest quarterly rise since 2009.

US West Texas Intermediate futures - a grade of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing - were at $59.34 per barrel, up 0.6 per cent, from their last settlement. WTI futures were set to rise for a fourth straight week and were on track to rise 30 per cent in the first three months of the year.

Oil prices have been supported for much of 2019 by the efforts of the Opec and non-affiliated allies including Russia - together known as Opec+ - who have pledged to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day of supply this year to prop up markets.

"Production cuts from the Opec+ group of producers have been the main reason for the dramatic recovery since the 38 per cent price slump seen during the final quarter of last year," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Britain's Barclays bank said on Friday that oil prices "are likely to move still higher in the second quarter and average $73 per barrel, and $70 for the year."

Opec+ members are meeting in June to discuss whether to continue withholding supply or not.

Opec's de facto leader Saudi Arabia favours cuts for the full year while Russia, which only reluctantly joined the agreement, is seen to be less keen to keep holding back supply beyond September.

However, the Opec+ cuts are not the only reason for rising oil prices this year, with analysts also pointing to US sanctions on oil exporters and Opec members Iran and Venezuela as reasons for the surge.

Despite rising prices, analysts are expressing concerns about future oil demand amid worrying signs the global economy may move into a recession.

"The biggest short-term risk to the oil market is likely to be driven by renewed stock market weakness," said Mr Hansen.

Stock markets have been volatile this year amid signs of a sharp global economic slowdown.

"Business confidence has weakened in recent months ... [and] global manufacturing PMIs [Purchasing Managers’ Index] are about to move into contraction," Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note, although it added that "the services sector ... continues to expand unabated."