The Address | Benghazi – Libya
NEW YORK – Oil prices rose about 1 percent on Friday, posting their biggest quarterly rise in a decade, as U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela as well as OPEC-led supply cuts overshadowed concerns over a slowing global economy.
The May Brent crude oil futures contract, which expired Friday, gained 57 cents, or 0.8 percent, to settle at $68.39 a barrel, marking a first-quarter gain of 27 percent. The more-active June contract settled up 48 cents at $67.58 a barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures rose 84 cents, or 1.42 percent, to $60.14 a barrel, and posted a rise of 32 percent in the January-March period.
For the two benchmarks, the quarterly rise was the biggest since the second quarter of 2009, when both gained about 40 percent.
U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela have boosted prices this year. Washington is keen to see that Malaysia, Singapore and others are fully aware of illicit Iranian oil shipments and the tactics Iran uses to evade sanctions, a U.S. sanctions official said on Friday.
Sigal Mandelker, under-secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, told reporters in Singapore that the United States had placed additional “intense pressure” on Iran this week.
Meanwhile, the United States has instructed oil trading houses and refiners to further cut dealings with Venezuela or face sanctions themselves, even if the trades are not prohibited by published U.S. sanctions, three sources familiar with the matter said.
“With U.S. sanctions taking Iranian and Venezuelan oil off the market, at the same time OPEC and non-OPEC producers want to see higher prices and are currently reluctant to make up for any lost volume,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.
Also lifting prices this year has been a deal between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies such as Russia to cut output by around 1.2 million barrels per day, which officially started in January.