Oil prices rise over 3pc on strong US jobs data

3 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

NEW YORK: Oil prices rose about 3 per cent on Friday, rising on upbeat US jobs data and signs that US sanctions on Venezuelan exports have helped tighten supply, then extending gains after weekly data showed US drillers cut the number of oil rigs.

Brent crude oil futures rose $1.97 a barrel, or 3.2 per cent, to $62.81 a barrel by 1:16 p.m. EST (1816 GMT). The international benchmark was on track for a weekly gain of about 2 per cent, report agencies.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $55.39, up $1.60 a barrel or 3 per cent. WTI was headed for a weekly gain of about 3.1 per cent.

Prices climbed to session highs after General Electric Co's Baker Hughes energy services firm reported that US energy firms cut the number of oil rigs operating for a fourth week in the past five. Last week's data showed the rig count in January fell the most in a month since April 2016.

Oil prices got a boost from Wall Street after surprisingly strong US job growth data fed demand for equities.

Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuela's Petróleos de Venezuela SA this week, keeping tankers stuck at ports. On Friday, the US Treasury Department provided details.

"We are beginning to see the impact to crude supplies from the sanctions on Venezuela. It has driven up domestic crude prices, cutting into refiner margins," Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, said.

"That, combined with Saudi cuts and Libyan production declines has changed market sentiment as we appear to be moving towards a better balanced supply situation."

Some US refiners have begun reducing crude processing as sanctions have boosted oil costs and as gasoline margins crashed to their lowest in nearly a decade, market sources told Reuters on Thursday.

In January, Saudi Arabia pumped 350,000 bpd less than in December, a Reuters survey showed.

Financial markets also gained support from comments on Twitter by US President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying he would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping soon to try to resolve a trade standoff.