By Ovunc Kutlu<br>
ANKARA (AA) – Oil prices were up at trading start on Wednesday as China's crude oil imports reached an all-time high on a monthly level showing strong demand from the world's largest crude oil importer.
International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $70.39 per barrel at 0700 GMT, posting a 0.78% increase, after closing Tuesday at $69.84 a barrel.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate was at $62.05 a barrel at the same time for a 0.81% gain after ending the previous session at $61.55 per barrel.
China’s crude oil imports reached a record monthly high of 10.64 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, the Chinese General Administration of Customs data showed earlier.
While this amount showed a 1.38 million barrel per day (mbpd) increase from the 9.26 million bpd in March, it also marked an 11% jump from the same month of 2018.
Rising demand from the world's largest crude oil importer signaled that global oil demand could be strong this year to put upward pressure on oil prices.
Meanwhile, U.S.' sanctions on Iran and Venezuela led to major production cuts in these countries, kept global oil supply low, and prevented a fall in oil prices.
Due to the sanctions, Iran's oil production is estimated to drop to 2.65 mbpd in 2019, from 3.85 mbpd in 2018, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its Oil 2019 Report released on March 11.
Venezuela's oil production is also forecast to decrease to 750,000 bpd this year, from 1.31 mbpd last year, according to the report.