Energy Sector Update for 03/29/2019: XOM, CVX, RDS.A, RDS.B, BP, E, COP, TOT, PBR, PBR.A, EC, SLB, HAL, NOV, SPN, BHGE

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(Updates with the price move, EIA report and general market commentary from the first paragraph.)

Crude rose on Friday, capping its strongest quarter in a decade, as high levels of compliance with production cuts helped curb global supplies that were already under pressure from sanctions on Iran and a political crisis in Venezuela.

West Texas Intermediate futures, which have surged by about 32% in the first quarter, climbed by 1.6% on Friday.

Oil dropped on Thursday after President Donald Trump called on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase production to keep crude from escalating higher. Still, they ended the quarter higher due in part to compliance with a supply cut of 1.2 million barrels per day engineered by OPEC and non-OPEC members led by Russia.

This program to rebalance the market was unveiled in January and OPEC has said recently it won't be reviewing the cuts until June as the move has yielded positive results from the cartel's point of view. Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told CNBC that he was leaning toward extending the six-month production cuts into the second half.

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido has called upon his supporters to make another final attempt to throw President Nicolas Maduro out of power. Guaido has been emboldened by the weight of countries such as the US, UK and Brazil supporting his bid to forcibly take control from Maduro, who has been well supported by the country's defense forces.

As the political crisis dragged and with Venezuela's state-owned exporter of crude under US sanctions as part of a plan to cripple Maduro, the supply of oil from the country has fallen appreciably, involuntarily contributing to OPEC's high compliance rate to production cuts.

Additionally, media reports are now speculating that the US is likely to increase pressure on Iran, the third-biggest oil producer in OPEC, forcing it to further cut exports. Tehran's exports have dropped since the US re-imposed sanctions late last year as part of its decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord.

Apart from geopolitics, the recent trend in oil rig count has also worked in favor of oil bulls as fresh figures show the number of rigs operating in the US fell by eight to 816, the lowest level since April 13, according to data from energy services firm Baker Hughes ( BHGE ), which tracked the seven-day period ending March 29.

The combined oil and gas rig count in the US dropped by 10 to 1,006 as gas rigs slipped by two to 190.

In Canada, the number of oil rigs in operation slumped by 14 to 35 over the same period, while the number of gas rigs was down by three to 53. As a result, the North American total plunged by 27 to 1,094 versus 1,127 a year ago, the data showed.

Prices also were also pressured earlier this week by the Energy Information Administration, which said on Wednesday crude stockpiles surged by 2.8 million barrels over the past week -- that compares with expectations for a drop of 1.2 million barrels in a Reuters' poll of analysts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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