Oil prices rise amid US sanctions against Venezuelan firm

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Oil prices rose during the week ending Feb. 1, with the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for March delivery up by 2.9 percent and Brent crude for March delivery up by 1.9 percent.

In the previous week ending Jan. 25, oil prices fell slightly. WTI decreased by 0.2 percent, and Brent crude decreased by 1.7 percent. At the end of the week, WTI settled at 53.69 U.S. dollars a barrel, while Brent crude closed at 61.64 dollars a barrel.

On Monday, oil prices extended losses, starting off the last week of January with a red tally, as increasing oil rigs in the United States fueled concerns over a potential supply glut. WTI fell 1.70 dollars to settle at 51.99 dollars a barrel, while Brent crude fell 1.71 dollar to close at 59.93 dollars a barrel.

Oil rigs in the U.S. oilfields rose for the first time since December 2018 to 862, up 10 rigs from the previous week ending Jan. 18.

On Tuesday, oil prices rebounded, as the United States slapped sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned oil company to pile financial pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro through curbing the country's crude exports.

WTI bounced 1.32 dollars to settle at 53.31 dollars a barrel, while Brent crude rose 1.39 dollars to close at 61.32 dollars a barrel.

The United States is Venezuela's biggest oil customer, importing about 500,000 barrels per day of crude in 2018. Investors were worried that the latest sanctions would negatively impact U.S. purchasers and send global oil prices soaring.

On Wednesday, oil prices continued to rise, as U.S. crude inventories rose less than analysts' estimates and the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting statement weighed down the U.S. dollar.

WTI rose 0.92 dollar to settle at 54.23 dollars a barrel, while Brent crude rose 0.33 dollar to close at 61.65 dollars a barrel.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels from the previous week. At 445.9 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories were about 7 percent above the five-year average for this time of year, according to the latest weekly report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday. The figure fell short of analysts' expectations of an increase of 3.2 million barrels.

On Thursday, oil prices posted mixed results as OPEC oil supply fell in January and U.S. crude output recorded monthly increase in November last year.

WTI fell 0.44 dollar to settle at 53.79 dollars a barrel, while Brent crude rose 0.25 dollar to close at 61.90 dollars a barrel.

Although U.S. crude extended a daily loss of 44 cents on Thursday, January ended with a monthly increase of 18.5 percent, which marked the best January gain on record, while Brent crude continued to rally, ending January with a monthly increase of nearly 15 percent, also the best monthly gain since April 2016.

On Friday, oil prices extend gains as oil rigs operated by U.S. energy firms declined sharply and strong job growth in the United States in January lifted investors' expectations on the demand side.

WTI rose 1.47 dollars to settle at 55.26 dollars a barrel, while Brent crude rose 0.89 dollar to close at 62.79 dollars a barrel.

As a key index to gauge future output, the fall of U.S. rig count offered a relief for the market clouded by fears of oversupply since late 2018. 

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