Oil starts 2019 with gains, as traders gear up for volatile year
Oil markets began 2019 in positive territory on Wednesday, as traders prepare for a likely volatile year of trading amid soaring U.S. crude supply and concerns about a global economic slowdown.
International Brent crude futures were at 54.31 U.S. dollars per barrel at 0126 GMT, up 51 cents, or one percent from their final close of 2018.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) spot crude oil futures were at 45.85 U.S. dollars per barrel, up 44 cents, or one percent.
Traders said crude futures were lifted by a rise in stock markets, although overall oil market sentiment remains relatively weak.
Oil prices ended 2018 with losses for the first time since 2015, after a desultory fourth quarter that saw buyers flee the market over growing worries about a supply glut and mixed signals related to renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.
“Oil prices ... registered their first yearly decline in three years on fears of a slowing global economy and concerns of an ongoing supply glut,” said Adeel Minhas, a consultant at Australia's Rivkin Securities.
For the year, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) futures slumped nearly 25 percent, while Brent tumbled nearly 20 percent.
A Reuters poll showed oil prices are expected to trade below 70 U.S. dollars per barrel in 2019 as surplus production, much of it from the United States, and slowing economic growth undermine efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut supply and prop up prices.