Crude futures were seen hovering close to multi-year highs during early afternoon deals, after a bigger-than-expected drop in U.S. stockpiles added to a rally fueled by a major Canadian supply outage, concerns about Libya’s exports and efforts by the Trump administration to cut off funds from Iran.
“We are in a very attractive oil price environment and our house view is that oil will hit $90 by the end of the second quarter of next year,” Hootan Yazhari, head of frontier markets equity research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said.
“We are moving into an environment where supply disruptions are visible all over the world… and of course President Trump has been pretty active in trying to isolate Iran and getting U.S. allies not to purchase oil from Iran,” he added.
International benchmark Brent crude traded at around $78.18 on Thursday, up around 0.7 percent while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood unchanged at $72.72.
On Tuesday, the U.S. demanded that all countries halt imports of Iranian crude from early November. The Trump administration’s hardline position comes as part of a broader push to try to further isolate Tehran both politically and economically.
Nonetheless, most major importers of Iranian crude have balked at Washington’s almost unilateral policy towards Iran.
The move followed OPEC’s decision to ramp up crude production last week. The Middle East-dominated cartel is looking to moderate oil prices after a rally of more than 40 percent over the last 12 months.
The 14-member producer group took action as Venezuela's dwindling output, the looming disruptions to Iran's supplies, and production declines elsewhere raised concerns about crude futures rising enough to dent global demand.
“Saudi Arabia is genuinely worried, perhaps even panicked, about supply losses from Iran — something it simply cannot be seen to say publicly — and the likely price spike that will result,” analysts at Energy Aspects said in a research note published Thursday.
— CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.