Oil prices at highest levels in 4 years

Traders gathered at the Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference in Singapore anticipated oil prices to go back to the heady days of $100 per barrel levels. REUTERS

Crude prices are spiking

U.S. West Texas Intermediate and international-benchmark Brent crude oil futures are trading sharply higher on Monday, shortly before the cash market opening after OPEC held its ground over the weekend and declined to agree to an immediate increase in output despite last week's pressure by President Trump to do so.

Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said the oil market is balanced and that its partners have increased production in response to rising prices.

Crude oil futures have spiked in early Asian trade on Monday, a move unlikely to be welcomed by US President Donald Trump who took to Twitter late last night to express his displeasure at recent price gains.

Trump has been calling publicly for OPEC to help lower prices by producing more.

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But a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC energy ministers in Algiers ended without any formal recommendation for a supply boost.

Looking ahead, crude oil prices await the release of US Energy Information Administration and Department of Energy inventory figures later this week.

"It is clear that the impact of forthcoming United States sanctions on Iranian oil exports. will be deeper than many had expected", said Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Singapore.

On Sunday, Opec and its allies at a meeting in Algiers ruled out any immediate boost in crude output but reassured the market that they would do whatever is necessary to balance the supply.

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Trump has repeatedly called for a hike in production by countries other than Iran to reduce oil prices, which have partially recovered since the December 2016 agreement, to trade close to $80 per barrel this month. He was returning to a playbook that won him a significant victory in June as OPEC and its allies agreed to roll back production cuts and pump an extra 1 million barrels a day.

Meanwhile, China's oil imports from Iran reportedly plunged by around 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) in August compared to a month earlier, though Beijing signaled its intent to keep buying.

Dated Brent could see the biggest overhaul since the North Sea crude became a benchmark more than 30 years ago as S&P Global Platts considers including oil from as far away as Central Asia, West Africa and USA shale fields in its price assessment. "The reason Saudi Arabia did not increase more is because all of our customers are receiving all of the barrels they want".

That suggests OPEC's power to influence the market will be tempered by US production for about another decade.

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