Crude prices inched up on Thursday, staying within sight of their highest levels in more than three years, as geopolitical tension in the Middle East and concerns about supply disruptions in key oil-producing nations provided support.
New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude futures tacked on 9 cents to $68.14 a barrel by 08:00 GMT. The U.S. benchmark rose to $69.55 last week, the highest since Nov. 28, 2014, according to investing.com.
Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., ticked up 17 cents to $74.18 a barrel. The global benchmark climbed as high as $75.47 earlier this week, a level not seen since Nov. 27, 2014.
Expectations that the United States will reinstate sanctions against Iran, a major oil producer and member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has helped push oil prices up in recent sessions.
Another bullish factor supporting oil prices has been declining output in Venezuela, OPEC’s biggest producer in Latin America.
Venezuela’s crude production has fallen from almost 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in early 2016 to around 1.5 million bpd due to political and economic turmoil.
On Wednesday, oil futures settled modestly higher, bouncing back from earlier weakness that was driven by data showing an unexpectedly weekly climb in U.S. crude supplies.
U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 2.2 million barrels in the week to April 20, to 429.74 million barrels, while domestic output, driven by shale extraction, climbed by 46,000 bpd to 10.59 million bpd.
Only Russia currently produces more, at around 11 million bpd.
Yet, underlying sentiment in the oil market remained positive amid ongoing investor expectations that OPEC-led supply cuts would continue to rid the market of excess supplies.
In other energy trading, gasoline futures were flat at $2.087 a gallon, while heating oil was steady at $2.139 a gallon.
Natural gas futures added 0.2% to $2.813 per million British thermal units, as traders looked ahead to weekly storage data due later in the global day amid expectations for a withdrawal of 12 billion cubic feet.