Oil edges lower as U.S. inventories rise

Rise in US crude inventories eclipses possible US sanctions on Venezuelan oil sector

Rise in US crude inventories eclipses possible US sanctions on Venezuelan oil sector

But the market has turned volatile lately on worries about a possible slowing in the Chinese and global economies this year, and new record production rates forecast next year for USA crude output.

Sanctions could also include US exports of petroleum products to Venezuela that are used for blending with Venezuelan heavy crude.

Crude inventories rose by 8 million barrels.

Any disruption in Venezuelan supplies also is likely to increase demand for heavy-sour crudes - the dense, viscous and relatively more sulfurous varieties that the Latin American nation produces.

The opportunity to soak up the extra supplies from Venezuela at potentially cheap prices would be a boon for the Asian countries, where the governments are trying to support slowing economic growth.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $54.58 per barrel at 0249 GMT, up 35 cents, or 0.7 percent, from their last settlement.

The leadership of Nicolas Maduro has been questioned lately, as the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, has declared himself as interim president.

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, the president of the national assembly, declared himself interim president on Wednesday, and the United States supported him against Nicolas Maduro, whom the USA administration declared an "usurper" with no legitimacy to the presidency, Oil Price reported. However, it has not yet taken that step, nor has it elected to cut off supply of US oil that goes to Mexico.

Trump has long considered imposing sanctions that would block imports of Venezuela oil.

In 2017, the most recent year that data was available, Venezuela accounted for about 6 percent of USA crude imports.

"This would deal a further blow to US refiners that rely on whatever Venezuelan oil is still available and as such would be short-term bullish".

"The stock market probably responds mildly", Fitzmartyn said. Prices could plunge to $48.50 if this support level fails.

Venezuelan output, like much of the crude pumped by OPEC, is heavier and contains more sulfur than grades produced elsewhere. Its production is very heavy and, along with its proximity, this has made those barrels popular with Gulf Coast refineries.

Venezuela's state-run oil company accounts for more than 90 percent of its export earnings. Valero and Citgo are among the largest importers of Venezuelan crude.

If Nymex crude oil prices offer a handy way to take the market's temperature on Venezuela, the two margins above tell the story beneath the story.

"Crude oil prices were stronger after signs emerged that OPEC cuts are impacting trade".

A possible move by President Donald Trump to hurt Venezuela's oil industry could prove a shot in the arm for the Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi administrations. Gulf Coast refineries depended on Venezuelan heavy crude for about a quarter of its imports, according to data from the EIA. Trump and high-ranking USA officials had been expected to meet the Chinese delegation to the forum ahead of the 90-day trade truce ending March 1. Mars traded at a $6.90 premium to USA crude on Wednesday, a five-year high, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, as bidders came into the market to secure supplies through the second quarter, traders said.

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