Brent crude oil price hits three-year high of $70 a barrel

Brent crude oil price hits three-year high of $70 a barrel

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices averaged $51/b in 2017, up $7/b from the 2016 average, and ended the year $6/b higher than at the end of 2016.

Oil prices rose for a sixth day on Friday after Russia's oil minister said that global crude supplies were "not balanced yet", alleviating market concerns about a wind-down of the OPEC-led deal to reduce production.

Bloomberg reports that the price of Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half of the world's oil, jumped 1.2% to US$70.05 a barrel - the highest since December 2014.

Iran has warned that the group risks overheating the market with oil at current levels. "It is premature to expect further upside to be sustainable, at least until the market gains a better grasp of the pace of USA production growth".

Olivier Jakob, managing director of PetroMatrix, noted, "We're still drawing USA stocks and that continues to support a very positive sentiment", and he added that physical Brent above $70 per barrel will surely trigger discussion among Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members about the need to continue their crude output cutbacks.

It will also be a boon for BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) as it will likely get a higher price for its unconventional oil and gas assets that it is shopping around.

Despite relatively high USA crude oil production, curtailments in production by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and robust global demand supported crude oil price increases in 2017.

According to the latest data from the US Petroleum Institute, the oil reserves in the country have fallen by 11.2 million barrels to 416.5 million barrels for the week ending January 5. Oil prices opened sharply lower today, dropping more than Rs 50 in early minutes of the trade.

According to NordFX, ICE Brent futures (London) for March delivery cost $62,2/b after gaining 0,5% on that day and 3,1% since the start of the trading week.

Domestic crude production is up 6% year over year to about 9.5 million barrels a day, and that number is expected to rise to around average around 10 million barrels a day this year and should reach that level in the next month or two.

Higher oil prices helped support oil major stock prices.

As shale oil development trends are rather uncertain, it is possible that the upward trend in crude oil prices will continue.

Brent, the worldwide benchmark for oil prices, was last up 6 cents at $69.26 a barrel.

The last time oil was at $70 the price was falling due to the decision of OPEC - the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries - to deliberately overproduce oil with a view to lowering the barrel price and making it financially unviable for the United States to produce oil from fracking.

Commerzbank noted that China imported 7.95M barrels of crude oil per day in December - 12% less than in November, which was a very strong month. USA distillate stocks jumped 8.899 million barrels the week ending December 29 to 138.8 million barrels.

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