Oil hovers near 2019 highs amid OPEC cuts

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* Nigeria signals willingness to limit output

* U.S. sanctions vs Iran and Venezuela support prices

* Slowing global economy would weigh on fuel demand (Updates prices, changes dateline, modifies throughout)

By Noah Browning

LONDON, Feb 21 – Oil prices hovered around 2019 highs on Thursday, bolstered by OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, but were capped by slowing growth in the global economy.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $57.14 a barrel at 0955 GMT, 2 cents below their last settlement, and close to a 2019 high of $57.55 reached the previous day.

Brent crude futures eased by 14 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $66.94 after touching a 2019 peak on Wednesday at $67.38.

Oil prices have been driven up this year by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

OPEC and its de fecto leader Saudi Arabia agreed late last year, along with producer allies such as Russia, to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to prevent a supply overhang from growing.

OPEC member Nigeria signalled on Wednesday that it would limit output after its production climbed in January.

“There is a growing confidence that global oil inventories will start depleting soon, mainly due to falling OPEC production,” said PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga.

“This, together with unintended reductions from exempted countries, would take the combined output well below the October 2018 level.”

U.S. sanctions have hit Iranian and Venezuelan crude exports while unrest has curbed Libyan output.

However, analysts said that a global economic slowdown – signs of which emerged late last year – was preventing prices from surging beyond highs reached this week.

“Slowing economic growth will invariably lead to weakness in fuel consumption, thus eroding bullish gains for oil prices,” said Benjamin Lu of brokerage Phillip Futures in Singapore.

The main factor keeping oil prices from rising even further is soaring U.S. output C-OUT-T-EIA, which rose by more than 2 million bpd last year to a record 11.9 million bpd.

The swelling production has resulted in rising U.S. oil inventories.

U.S. crude oil stocks rose by 1.3 million barrels to 448.5 million barrels in the week to Feb. 15, according to a weekly report by the American Petroleum Institute on Wednesday.

Official oil inventory and production data is due from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) after 1800 GMT on Thursday. (Reporting by Noah Browning Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein Editing by David Goodman)

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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