Global oil prices extended gain again Tuesday, taking U.S. crude past the $62 mark for the first time in nearly five months, following stronger-than-expected factory output data from the U.S. and China and reports that Washington may revoke waivers for the purchase of Iranian exports.
Reuters reported late Monday that waivers issued to eight countries last year, allowing them to buy sanctioned Iranian crude inside a six month window, may not be extended when the expire next month and the Trump administration looks to add further pressure on Tehran following its decision to exit a multi-lateral nuclear weapons treaty in 2018.
Crude was also getting a boost from OPEC's ongoing production cuts which, along with support from key allies such as Russia, are taking more than 1.2 million barrels from the market each day. That, along with sanctions on the sale of Venezuelan oil.
"The six-month waiver that the US granted to buyers of Iranian oil back in November is due to expire in early May and this has raised some questions about what will happen next," said Saxo Bank's head of commodity strategy Ole Hansen. "But with Opec+ continuing to cut production and the US forcing down exports from Iran and Venezuela, only a major change in the outlook for demand will alter the current positive sentiment."
"Several Opec producers, and Saudi Arabia in particular, need oil back above $80/barrel to meet their fiscal obligations and they are unlikely to be satisfied with Brent at $70/b," he added. "On that basis, we expect supply to be kept tight over the coming months, thereby supporting a potential extension towards $75/b before it eventually runs out of steam amid renewed concerns about the negative impact to global growth."
Brent crude contracts for June delivery, the global benchmark for oil prices, were marked 32 cents from their Monday close in New York and changing hands at $69.34 per barrel while WTI contracts for May delivery were seen 53 cents higher at $62.12 per barrel, the highest since November 5.
A private reading of China's manufacturing industry for the month of March, published Sunday, showed the closely-watched gauge topped the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction for the first time in four months in the world's biggest energy importer. U.S. manufacturing, meanwhile, rebounded from two-year low.
Speculators are also adding to bullish bets on crude, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data, with net long positions at the highest levels in more than five months.
Crude's ongoing rebound has also has also lifted U.S. oil majors notably higher, with Chevron Corp. (CVX) - Get Chevron Corporation Report some 14.85% to the upside at $124.94 each since the start of the year, and rival Exxon Mobil (XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report 19.5% higher at $81.73 each.
U.S. gasoline prices were quoted at a national average of $2.67 per gallon on the Gasbuddy.com comparison website Tuesday, the highest since early November and a 20.2% increase since the start of the year.