By Christopher Alessi
LONDON -- Oil prices advanced Friday, as Brent crude marked a week of trading above the symbolic $60-a-barrel level, boosted by geopolitical uncertainties.
Brent, the global benchmark, was up 0.54%, at $60.95 a barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 0.61%, at $54.87 a barrel.
Brent last Friday climbed above $60 for the first time in over two years. On Thursday, WTI, the U.S. standard, hit its highest level since July 2015.
"Geopolitical risk is back in the picture in a very clear way," said Richard Mallinson, an analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects, citing ongoing conflict in northern Iraq and Venezuelan financial instability.
Iraqi troops have in recent weeks clashed with forces from semiautonomous Kurdistan, disrupting crude production and exports from the northern, oil-rich region. The conflict was ignited when the Kurds in late September voted nearly unanimously to secede from Baghdad in a controversial independence referendum.
Mr. Mallinson estimated that approximately 300,000 barrels a day of Iraqi production are currently offline.
Meanwhile, Venezuela said Thursday it would seek to restructure its debt. But if the country were to default, the economic fallout would likely engulf the state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA. That could potentially lead to a disruption in oil flows, reducing global supply, according to Mr. Mallinson.
The market has also been buoyed over the past week by a growing consensus that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia will move to extend their output cut agreement when it expires in March.
Harry Tchilinguirian, global head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas, expects OPEC to agree to an extension at the cartel's official meeting in Vienna on Nov. 30, potentially lengthening it through the end of 2018.
However, even though "an extension is the likely path of least resistance, we expect compliance with pledged cuts to be challenged by the duration of output restraint and to fall in the second half of 2018," Mr. Tchilinguirian wrote in a note.
OPEC and some major producers outside the cartel, including Russia, first agreed late last year to cap their production at around 1.8 million barrels a day lower than peak October 2016 levels, with the aim of alleviating global oversupply and boosting prices.
Among refined products Friday, Nymex reformulated gasoline blendstock -- the benchmark gasoline contract -- was up 1.65%, at $1.77 a gallon. ICE gasoil, a benchmark for diesel fuel, changed hands at $544.75 a metric ton, up 0.55% from the previous settlement.
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