Oil prices rose Thursday to their highest since late 2014 as U.S. crude inventories declined, moving closer to five-year averages, with reports that, top exporter, Saudi Arabia is seeking to push oil prices higher.
Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 rallied as high as $74.44 a barrel, the strongest since Nov. 27, 2014, the day that OPEC decided to pump as much as it could to defend market share, sending the price to a low of $27 just over a year later.
Brent futures were at $74.35 per barrel, up 87 cents from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 rose 71 cents to $69.18 a barrel. WTI had earlier hit $69.27, its best level since December 2, 2014.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers including Russia started to withhold output in 2017 to rein in oversupply that had depressed prices since 2014.
OPEC and its partners will meet in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on April 20. OPEC will then meet on June 22 to review its oil production policy.
Reports say Saudi Arabia would be happy to see crude rise to $80 or even $100 a barrel, which was seen as a sign that Riyadh will seek no changes to the supply-cutting deal.
Since the start of the supply cuts, crude inventories have gradually declined from record levels toward long-term average levels.
In the United States, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday that commercial crude stocks fell by 1.1 million barrels in the week to April 13, to 427.57 million barrels, close to the five-year average level of around 420 million barrels.
Further supporting oil prices is an expectation that the United States will re-introduce sanctions against Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, which could result in further supply reductions from the Middle East.