SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices climbed on Monday, pushed up by a drop in U.S. drilling activity and by fighting in Syria between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters.
Brent crude futures were at $68.79 at 0053 GMT, up 18 cents, or 0.26 percent, from their last close. Brent on Jan. 15 hit its highest since December, 2014, at $70.37 a barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.53 a barrel, up 16 cents, or 0.25 percent, from their last settlement. WTI marked a December-2014 peak of $64.89 a barrel on Jan. 16.
Traders pointed to reduced U.S. drilling activity for new production as the main price-driver for crude on Monday.
U.S. drillers cut five oil rigs in the week to Jan. 19, bringing the total count down to 747, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said on Friday.
Despite the cuts, the rig count in 2017 and early this year remains much higher than in 2016, resulting in a 16-percent rise in U.S. crude oil production since mid-2016, to 9.75 million barrels per day (bpd).
Conflict in the Middle East was also supporting oil prices.
In Syria, Turkey’s army and rebel allies battled U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in the Afrin province on Sunday, stepping up a two-day-old Turkish campaign against Kurdish fighters that has opened a new front in Syria’s civil war.
Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore, said conflict between Kurds and Turkey “usually implies that oil prices would move higher due to the (region‘s) strategic position in oil supply routes”.
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