Oil prices hit $80 a barrel on Thursday for the first time since November 2014 on concerns that Iranian exports could fall due to renewed U.S. sanctions and reduce supply in an already tightening market.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 reached an intraday high of $80.18 while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 57 cents at $72.06 a barrel, also their highest since November 2014.
President Donald Trump’s decision this month to withdraw the United States from an international nuclear deal with Iran and revive sanctions that could limit crude exports from OPEC’s third-largest producer has given strong tailwind to oil prices.
France’s Total on Wednesday warned it might abandon a multi-billion-dollar gas project in Iran if it could not secure a waiver from U.S. sanctions, casting further doubt on European-led efforts to salvage the nuclear deal.
A rapid decline in Venezuela’s crude production has further roiled markets in recent months.
“The geopolitical noise and escalation fears are here to stay,” said Norbert Rücker, head of macro and commodity research at Swiss bank Julius Baer.
“Supply concerns are top of mind after the United States left the Iran nuclear deal.”
Several banks have in recent days raised their oil price forecasts, citing tighter supplies and strong demand.
But high oil prices could hit consumption, the International Energy Agency warned on Wednesday, lowering its global oil demand growth forecast for 2018 to 1.4 million from 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd).
Asia’s demand is at record highs and with rising prices its crude could cost $1 trillion this year, about twice what it paid during the market lull of 2015/2016.
The IEA said global oil demand would average 99.2 million bpd in 2018, although U.S. bank Goldman Sachs said consumption would cross 100 million bpd “this summer’’. (Reuters/NAN)