Brent oil taps 2019 high on signs of slowing U.S., Venezuela output

Brent crude oil prices climbed Monday, taking fresh inspiration from a drop in the U.S. oil-rig count, and signs of falling production from major OPEC area producers.

Leading the way, April Brent

LCOJ9, -0.16%

rose 27 cents, or 0.4%, to $63.03 a barrel, off the session high so far, but still hovering at its best level so far this year after closing up 3.1% to $62.75 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe Friday. Prices based on the front-month contracts gained 15% in January and 1.8% last week.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for March delivery


gave up earlier gains to turn south, dipping 13 cents to $55.13 a barrel, versus a high that saw it hit $55.75 earlier. The contract settled up 2.7% to $55.26 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday, with prices tracking the front-month contracts logging their highest finish since Nov. 19.

The month of January saw WTI crude rise 18.5%, and 2.9% on the week, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Driving support for oil prices, Baker Hughes

BHGE, +4.10%

 on Friday reported that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil fell by 15 to 847 this week. That more than offset the increase of 10 in the oil-rig count from a week earlier.

But analysts were also optimistic that more Venezuela oil production will come off the market thanks to U.S. sanctions. The Trump administration unveiled sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm Petróleos de Venezuela SA last week in an effort to cut off money to President Nicolás Maduro, days after opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of the country. The political turmoil raises the risk of disruption to Venezuela’s oil output.

“OPEC oil production fell sharply in January thanks to compliance with the production cuts and involuntary declines in Iran, Libya and Venezuela,” said analysts at Commerzbank, citing data from Reuters and Bloomberg. The analysts added that EU sanctions against Venezuela may be forthcoming after it failed to meet an ultimatum from the region.

March natural gas

NGH19, -0.73%

fell 0.8% to $2.712 per million British thermal units, after falling 2.8% to $2.734 on Friday. Front-month contract prices suffered their lowest finish since July, after ending last month with a loss of 4.3%. For the week, they marked a loss of 11%.

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Read: Here’s how investors can take advantage of ‘opportunity’ in natural gas

March gasoline


 rose 1% to $1.452 a gallon, and March heating oil


 added 0.4% to $1.921 a gallon.


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