OPEC's oil exports to US fell to five-year low in January

OPEC's oil exports to US fell to five-year low in January

Benchmark Brent crude had slipped 62 cents to $61.36 a barrel by 1000 GMT, after rallying about 15 percent in January.

Crude shipments to the US from OPEC and its partners fell to 1.41 million barrels a day in January, the lowest in five years, according to data from cargo-tracking and intelligence company Kpler.

When adding in all imports and exports of crude oil and petroleum products, the United States imported a net 1.9 million barrels per day last week, seeing a growth of 177,000 barrels from the January 19-25 week.

“As we move deeper into [refinery] maintenance season, we have seen a third consecutive build to crude stocks, ” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData. A flotilla loaded with Venezuelan oil has formed in the Gulf of Mexico, some holding cargoes bought ahead of the latest USA sanctions on Venezuela and others whose buyers are weighing who to pay. Distillate stockpiles alone fell by 2.26 million barrels, compared with a decline of 2 million barrels forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

On Nymex, March gasoline RBH9, +2.02% added 2.3% to $1.459 a gallon, and March heating HOH9, +0.67% climbed by 0.8% to $1.912 a gallon.

Oil prices trade higher year to date, with WTI front-month contract prices up about 19%.

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"It would seem that the market is really not too anxious yet about the potential loss of Venezuelan barrels", said analysts at JBC Energy in a report.

The report revealed that there have been encouraging signs in trade talks between the USA and China over tariffs recently, and any agreement between the two countries could provide upside to oil demand, and indeed oil prices, going forward.

“That being said, the downside could be limited as the OPEC and 10 partner producers outside the cartel are supposed to be actively managing output in an effort to rebalance the market, ” said Razaqzada.

Supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russian Federation, have been supporting prices. Shrinking Iraqi imports and deep output cuts by Saudi Arabia fueled the decline.

The sanctions will sharply limit oil transactions between Venezuela and other countries and are similar to but slightly less extensive than those imposed on Iran past year, experts said on Friday after looking at details posted by the Treasury Department.

It would also increase “the probability that the participating countries won't cheat on their share in production cuts, ” he said.

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