By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose by 1 percent on Monday, with Brent hitting its highest level since November, driven up by a report the United States is preparing to announce that all imports of Iranian oil will have to end or be subject to sanctions.
Brent crude futures were at a November 2018 high of $72.70 per barrel at 0100 GMT, up 1 percent from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $64.70 per barrel, up 1 percent from their previous settlement.
The United States is preparing to announce on Monday that all buyers of Iranian oil will have to end their imports shortly or be subject to U.S. sanctions, a Washington Post columnist reported on Sunday.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the report. A State Department spokesman declined to comment.
The U.S. reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers.
Washington, however, granted Iran’s eight main buyers of oil, mostly in Asia, waivers to the sanctions which allowed them limited purchases for half-a-year.
The report comes amid an oil market that is already relatively tight.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce “that, as of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that is currently importing Iranian crude or condensate”, the Post’s columnist Josh Rogin said, citing two State Department officials that he did not name.
“The path of least resistance remains higher (for oil prices),” said Stephen Innes, head of trading at SPI Asset Management, pointing to Saudi supply cuts, a decline in the U.S. rig count and supply disruptions from Libya to Venezuela as reasons for a tight market.
U.S. energy firms last week reduced the number of oil rigs operating by two, to 825, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its weekly report on Thursday.
Outside the United States, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has led supply cuts since the start of the year aimed at tightening global oil markets and to propping up crude prices.
Brent prices have risen by more than a third this year, while WTI has climbed more than 40 percent over the same period.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford)