U.S. crude rises on concern over Iran sanctions, Venezuelan output

An oil pump is seen at sunset outside Vaudoy-en-Brie

Meanwhile, Brent prices have gained almost 6 percent this month, buoyed by expectations the United States will renew sanctions against Iran.

Prices put in their high of the day when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stocked the geopolitical fires by accusing Iran of lying about its past nuclear intentions.

U.S. President Donald Trump has until May 12 to decide whether to restore the sanctions on Iran that were lifted after an agreement over its disputed nuclear programme.

Net length was reduced in NYMEX and ICE WTI (-17 million barrels), Brent (-7 million) and European gasoil (-2 million) but increased in USA heating oil (+7 million) and especially US gasoline (+13 million).

While US defense secretary Jim Mattis said last week that there's been no decision on the nuclear deal, the nervousness around a potential breakdown in the accord is also spilling over into the physical oil market.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up 80 cents on the day at $68.90 a barrel.

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"I doubt we will see a big sell off before we have some clarity on the Iran nuclear deal", said Torbjorn Kjus, senior oil analyst at DnB markets in Oslo.

The prospect of the United States reimposing sanctions on Iran and OPEC's continued discipline in withholding output have kept the market well above $70 a barrel for most of this month. The more-active July contract traded at US$73.16. The global benchmark crude traded at a US$6.43 premium to June WTI.

In the United States, working oil rigs rose by five last week to 825, the highest level since March 2015, according to data from Baker Hughes.

Growing U.S. crude production and stockpiles have weighed on the market.

Gasoline futures rose 0.1 percent to settle at $2.1292 a gallon on Monday, the highest since August. Investors are assessing if surging US production, which has topped 10 million barrels a day every week since early February, will undermine efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market via output cuts. "Since the market is already tight because of the high production outages in Venezuela and the production cuts implemented by OPEC and Russian Federation, any further reduction of supply weighs all the more heavily", the bank said. USA crude stockpiles probably increased by 1.25 million barrels, according to the median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Dusaniwsky pointed out that bets against the sector previously hit a year-to-date high of $55.2 billion in mid-January when the benchmark topped $66 a barrel and then swiftly fell to a year-to-date low of $43.1 billion in mid-February when the price of WTI crude plummeted again.

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