Global crude prices surged past a two-and-a-half year high Thursday amid reports that Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest producer, would be comfortable with $100 oil and push for no changes in OPEC's current production ahead of a key meeting in Jedda later this week.
The overnight spike has extended an impressive run for global crude, taking prices to the highest levels since late 2014 after Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia would be comfortable with prices trading in a range of $80 to $100 over the near term as it plots the listing of its state-owned producer Saudi Aramco in early 2019. It's also unlikely to ask for any changes in the current pact between OPEC members -- and non-cartel allies such as Russia -- which is taking 1.8 million barrels of crude from the market each day until at least the end of the year.
"Given the fate of Venezuela, continued strong compliance from other OPEC members, and robust demand growth we now expect that the global oil market will be in deficit for the remainder of the year, which supports our relatively more constructive view," ING strategist Warren Patterson wrote in a recent report.
Brent crude contracts for June delivery, the global benchmark, were marked 0.6% higher from their Wednesday close at $73.91 per barrel, while WTI contracts for the same month, which are more closely tied to U.S. gas prices, were seen 0.4% higher at $68.75 after topping $69 earlier in the session.
The current rally is also being supported by declines in domestic U.S. crude stocks, which fell b 1.1 million barrels last week, according to official figures published Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration. The key WTI distribution hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, also saw a 1.1 million dip in crude stocks, the EIA said.
Investors are also concerned over the impact of potential U.S. sanctions on Iran, which President Donald Trump may invoke if he refuses to certify the dormant nuclear energy deal with Tehran by the May 18 deadline. Should the President slap restrictions on Iran's crude exports, a further 500,000 barrels a day could be removed from the market, analysts have estimated.
Trump waived fresh sanctions on Iran in January, but insisted that was only to "secure our European allies' agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal.
"This is a last chance," he insisted at the time. "In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately."