March 29, 2019 / 1:11 AM / 8 months ago

Oil prices rise amid OPEC's ongoing supply cuts, U.S. sanctions

* OPEC has led production cuts since start of the year

* U.S. is targeting Iran, Venezuela oil exports with sanctions

* But weak economic outlook could weigh on oil prices soon

* BoAML warns of recession in 2020

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE, March 29 (Reuters) - Oil prices rose on Friday, pushed up by ongoing supply cuts led by producer club OPEC and U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, which have given crude markets the biggest first quarter price push since 2009.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $59.54 per barrel at 0100 GMT, up 24 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last settlement.

Brent crude oil futures >LCOc1> had yet to trade.

Oil prices have been supported for much of 2019 by efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-affiliated allies like Russia, known as OPEC+, who have pledged to withhold around 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of supply this year to prop up markets.

“Production cuts from the OPEC+ group of producers have been the main reason for the dramatic recovery since the 38 percent price slump seen during the final quarter of last year,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

“In fact, the recovery has been so strong and swift that WTI is currently heading towards its biggest quarterly gain – currently 32 percent – since Q2 2009, when the recovery from the global financial crisis saw it jump by more than 40 percent,” he added.

The price surge triggered a call by U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday for OPEC to boost production to lower prices.

“Very important that OPEC increase the flow of Oil. World Markets are fragile, price of Oil getting too high. Thank you!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

However, the OPEC+ cuts are not the only reason for rising oil prices this year, with analysts also pointing to U.S. sanctions on oil exporters and OPEC members Iran and Venezuela as reasons for the surge.

Saxo Bank’s Hansen said “the biggest short-term risk to the oil market is likely to be driven by renewed stock market weakness.”

Stock markets have been volatile this year amid signs of a sharp global economic slowdown.

“Business confidence has weakened in recent months ... (and) global manufacturing PMIs are about to move into contraction,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note, although it added that “the services sector ... continues to expand unabated.”

Given the OPEC+ cuts, however, Bank of America said it expected oil prices to rise in the short-term, with Brent prices forecast to average $74 per barrel in the second quarter.

Heading towards 2020, however, the bank warned of a recession.

“We are growing more concerned about the outlook for 2020. Manufacturing tends to lead consumer confidence ... A deeper dive into protectionism could eventually kill burgeoning global consumer sentiment and trigger a global recession,” it said.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Richard Pullin

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