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Return of US oil sanctions on Venezuela to hit revenue, fuel imports

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Return of US oil sanctions on Venezuela to hit revenue, fuel imports
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the headquarters of the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA in Caracas, Venezuela July 21, 2016. Picture taken July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

By Marianna Parraga and Mayela Armas

HOUSTON/CARACAS (Reuters) – A reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gas sectors would hurt the OPEC country’s ability to collect cash from its oil exports, crimp new energy investments and raise the risks of domestic fuel scarcity, analysts and executives said.

Washington this week ordered a wind down of all business transactions between U.S entities and Venezuela’s state miner Minerven, and said it would unwind in April its easing of energy sanctions if President Nicolas Maduro’s administration does not stick to an agreement signed last year to accept conditions for a fair presidential election.

The U.S. is increasing its pressure since the South American country’s top court last week upheld a ban blocking the leading opposition hopeful, Maria Corina Machado, from the election.

The U.S., which first imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela in 2019, had granted sanctions relief for the OPEC member country in October in recognition of the election deal.

As a result of easing sanctions, Venezuela was expected to grow its total oil revenue to as much as $20 billion this year from some $12 billion in 2023, according to Caracas-based consultancy Ecoanalitica. Larger exports of crude and petrochemicals to cash-paying customers in countries from the U.S. to India were behind its forecast.

“Price discounts on Venezuela’s crude had reduced a lot and cashing sales proceeds became easier for state company PDVSA. That was helping Maduro,” said Francisco Monaldi, director of the Latin American Energy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

“If the license is withdrawn in April, the proceeds will be reduced again and the scenarios of strong economic growth and a competitive election will fade,” he added.

Risks of a new bout of acute fuel scarcity also are poised to increase, experts said.

Even if Washington continues authorizations for debt repayment deals to Chevron (NYSE:), Eni, Repsol (OTC:) and Maurel & Prom to avoid a total break with Venezuela, that might not provide sustainable investment to expand output.

“Specific licenses to one or two companies are not going to be very beneficial as a return of investment to Venezuela,” said Ali Moshiri, CEO of Amos Global Energy, which has interests in the South American country.

“That is not really going to move the needle for Venezuela’s oil sector to increase production significantly,” he added.

LOST EFFORT?

The U.S. sanction easing, which began in November 2022 with a special license to Chevron, marked a big change for the South American country’s coffers.

PDVSA since 2019 had been forced to switch most of its oil trading to swaps and funnel sales through intermediaries because customers did not want to be exposed to sanctions.

Oil exports by PDVSA and its joint venture partners rose almost 13% to an average 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) last year, tanker tracking data showed, while the country’s crude output grew 9% to 783,000 bpd. The company reestablished relationships with some of its former key clients.

The relaxation increased oil revenue, boosting Venezuela’s gross domestic product by 5% in 2023. It also paved the way for Venezuela to plan for an expansion of public spending for the first time in years to woo voters.

Venezuela’s oil minister Pedro Tellechea on Tuesday said the country was prepared to counter a return of sanctions and warned that the U.S. could also suffer from fewer Venezuelan oil exports.

But his message did little to calm companies that were planning purchases of Venezuelan oil and partnerships for energy projects in Venezuela, according to sources.

Commodities

Gold prices muted as rate fears keep traders to the sidelines

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Gold prices muted as rate fears keep traders to the sidelines
© Reuters.

Investing.com– Gold prices moved in a flat-to-low range on Wednesday, extending their recent run of muted performance as anxiety over higher-for-longer U.S. interest rates persisted ahead of key economic readings.

The yellow metal remained squarely within a $2,000 to $2,050 trading range established over the past month, as any upside in gold was largely limited by a string of Federal Reserve warnings that the bank was in no hurry to begin trimming rates early in 2024. Strength in the , which remained near three-month highs, also pressured gold prices.

Still, gold prices also remained firm above the key $2,000 an ounce support level, indicating that fears of a global economic slowdown and geopolitical tensions in Russia and the Middle East were feeding some safe haven demand for the yellow metal.

steadied at $2,030.69 an ounce, while expiring in April fell 0.2% to $2,039.45 an ounce by 00:20 ET (05:20 GMT). 

PCE inflation, GDP data awaited for more cues

Markets were now awaiting key inflation and economic growth readings for more trading cues.

data- the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge- is due on Thursday, and is expected to show inflation remained sticky in January. Such a scenario gives the Fed more impetus to keep interest rates higher for longer.

Several Fed officials also warned this week that sticky inflation will keep the Fed from lowering interest rates early in 2024. 

Before the inflation data, a second reading on fourth-quarter is due later on Wednesday, and is expected to show some cooling in economic growth.

But the U.S. economy is still expected to remain well ahead of its developed world peers, giving the Fed enough headroom to keep rates higher for longer. 

Higher rates herald more pressure on gold, given that they increase the opportunity cost of buying bullion. Other precious metals also retreated on this notion, with falling 0.5% to $892.05 an ounce, while fell 0.7% to $22.602 an ounce on Wednesday. 

Copper prices dip, China PMIs awaited      

Among industrial metals, expiring in March fell 0.4% to $3.8390 a pound. 

The red metal saw a strong run-up in recent weeks on optimism over more stimulus measures in top importer China.

But this rally will be tested on Friday with the release of closely-watched data from the country, which is expected to provide more cues on the state of business activity through February. 

Readings for January showed little improvement in the economy.

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Commodities

Oil rises more than $1/bbl as OPEC+ mulls extending output cuts

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Oil rises more than $1/bbl as OPEC+ mulls extending output cuts
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Oil rig pumpjacks, also known as thirsty birds, extract crude from the Wilmington Field oil deposits area near Long Beach, California July 30, 2013. REUTERS/David McNew//File Photo

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Oil prices rose more than $1 a barrel on Tuesday as sources said OPEC+ is considering extending voluntary oil output cuts into the second quarter to provide additional support.

futures rose $1.12, or 1.4%, to $83.65 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) were up $1.29, or 1.7%, at $78.87.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia, known as OPEC+, agreed in November to voluntary cuts totalling about 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first quarter this year, led by Saudi Arabia rolling over its own voluntary cut.

The producer group could keep the additional cuts in place until the end of the year, two of the sources told Reuters.

“We are going to see some tight supplies down the road,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

“OPEC is looking for mid-$80s, may be around $85 a barrel on Brent. If we stay below that, they will curtail production all the way to the year end,” Kissler added.

Also supporting prices on the supply side, Israel and Hamas, as well as Qatari mediators, all sounded notes of caution about progress towards a truce in Gaza, after U.S. President Joe Biden said he believed a ceasefire could be reached in under a week to halt the war for Ramadan.

Yemen’s Houthi spokesperson said the group’s operations in the Red Sea would stop only when Israeli “aggression” against Gaza ends. Houthi missile and drone attacks on international shipping have driven up the cost of transporting energy products and contributed to a tighter market.

In the U.S., crude inventories were expected to have risen about 2.7 million barrels last week, while distillates and gasoline stockpiles were seen falling, a Reuters poll showed.

The American Petroleum Institute will release the industry group’s weekly inventories data at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT), followed by the government’s report on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, the 3-2-1 U.S. refinery crack spread , a proxy for refining margins, rose to their highest in more than five months. The surge suggests increased profitability for refineries amidst robust consumer demand for petroleum products.

Markets expect to see some improvement in Chinese oil demand as improving travel demand over the Lunar New Year holiday outweighed worries of slowing macro-economic indicators.

Russian authorities announced a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to compensate for rising demand and to allow for refinery maintenance.

Global crude oil markets were expected to be fairly stable this year at around $80 a barrel, Russel Hardy, CEO of oil and gas trader Vitol, said.

Speaking at the Energy Institute conference, Hardy also said global oil demand was expected to peak in the early 2030s.

Both oil benchmarks had settled more than 1% higher on Monday after declines of 2-3% over the previous week as markets factored in a greater likelihood that cuts to interest rates might take longer to come than previously expected.

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Commodities

Oil falls 1% on Fed rate cut caution and stocks build

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Oil falls 1% on Fed rate cut caution and stocks build
© Reuters. Oil, miniatures of oil barrels and U.S. dollar banknote are seen in this illustration taken, June 6, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Files

By Paul Carsten

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil prices pulled back on Wednesday as the prospect of delays to U.S. interest rate cuts and a jump in stocks that trounced expectations offset a boost from a potential extension to OPEC+ supply curbs.

futures fell 76 cents, or 0.91%, to $82.89 a barrel by 1227 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures (WTI) were down 83 cents, or 1.05%, at $78.04. Both benchmarks had fallen $1 in earlier trading.

Vandana Hari, founder of oil market analysis provider Vanda (NASDAQ:) Insights, attributed the price falls to profit-taking plus a combined response to a surge in U.S. crude stocks and continuing hopes of a Gaza ceasefire deal in coming days.

U.S. crude stocks showed an 8.43 million barrel build in the week ended Feb. 23, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute (API) figures on Tuesday. 

That shattered expectations of a 1.8 million barrel build, according to analysts polled by Reuters on Monday.

Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman had signalled on Tuesday that she was in no rush to cut U.S. interest rates, particularly given continuing inflation risks. Higher-for-longer rates could dampen economic growth and suppress demand for oil.

Due Thursday is the January U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation and a key factor in rate decisions.

“The power of inflationary expectations must not be underestimated,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM in a note on Wednesday. “In case tomorrow’s U.S. PCE reading comes in above expectations, a temporary top might have been found” for oil.

Brent and WTI futures rose more than $1 a barrel on Tuesday after Reuters reported that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia (OPEC+) will consider extending voluntary oil output cuts into the second quarter. 

Analysts at ANZ Research said that such a move by OPEC+ would be likely to tighten the market.

Russian authorities on Tuesday announced a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to compensate for rising demand from consumers and farmers and to allow for planned refinery maintenance.

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