Venezuelan oil exports to US still a primary source of cash

U,S, crude price rises, boosted by Venezuela turmoil

Brent for March settlement advanced 46 cents to $61.55/bbl on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, and traded at a $7.89 premium to WTI.

Official U.S. government oil production and inventory data is due later on Wednesday.

Crude inventories rose by 6.6 million barrels in the week ended January 18 to 443.6 million, compared with analysts' expectations for a decrease of 42,000 barrels, the API said.

Oil on Friday closed higher for the third day in a row as a deal to reopen the U.S. government eased investor fears while political turmoil in Venezuela roiled one of the world's biggest suppliers of heavy crude.

Key to the global economic outlook will be whether the United States and China can resolve their trade disputes.

Brent, however, has shed about 2.4 percent since the start of trade on Monday and is on track to post its first week of losses in four weeks. The U.S. imported less than 500,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan crude and petroleum products in 2017, down from more than 1.2 million barrels a day in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Diplomatic relations between US and Venezuela have hit a new low over President Donald Trump's decision to recognize the leader of the South American country's opposition as its legitimate president. Trump has long considered imposing sanctions that would block imports of Venezuela oil.

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Kirsten Gillibrand , D-N.Y., speaks October 25, 2018, during the New York Senate debate hosted by WABC-TV, in New York. I believe in right vs. wrong - that wrong wins when we do nothing. "I believe we're all called to make a difference".

RBC Europe predicted that sanctions could almost double projected output shortfalls from the troubled exporter.

Crude oil prices were mixed Thursday, with US crude boosted by the threat of sanctions on Opec member Venezuela.

"The oil market is partially pricing in the risk to Venezuela's crude production, which has been plummeting in recent years", Vandana Hari of Vanda Insights said.

"Venezuela production has been rapidly collapsing, so numerous customers of Venezuela have already been adapting to that decline in supply, including in the US", said Francisco Monaldi, fellow in Latin American energy policy at Rice University's Baker Institute.

The bank said it expected Brent and WTI prices to average $70 and $59 per barrel respectively in 2019.

Of apparent less concern to traders was news from Baker Hughes that US drillers added 10 oil rigs in the week to January 25, bringing the total count to 862 - the first increase in the number of operating rigs this year - however, like the Venezuela issue, this news may have a delayed reaction that could play out in coming days.

Global oil markets are still well supplied, however, thanks in part to surging output in the U.S.

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