Oil price hits $70 for first time since 2014

The 2015 accord eased sanctions on OPEC's third-largest member in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, and renewed USA measures might stifle the Middle East nation's crude exports.

Crude prices started the week in an upbeat mood on Monday, reaching their strongest level in nearly four years as traders increased their bets the USA would pull out the Iran nuclear deal, raising the potential for tighter global oil stockpiles.

It was last at $70.30 by 3:05AM ET (0705GMT), up 58 cents, or around 0.9%.

Global oil demand expanded by 1.5 million barrels per day a year ago, thanks to a rebound in US gasoline demand from drivers of SUVs and light trucks.

Iran has for months been preparing for the possibility that Trump will pull out of the nuclear agreement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, adding that the USA would quickly come to regret such a decision.

Trump will decide by May 12 whether to restore U.S.sanctions on Iran, which would likely reduce its oil exports. Prices rose 2.4% last week. The global benchmark crude, which is also on course for the highest close since November 2014, was at a US$5.29 premium to July WTI.

Oil prices rose to their highest levels since late-2014 on Monday, boosted by Venezuela's deepening economic crisis and a looming decision on whether the United States will re-impose sanctions on Iran.

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At 0716 GMT, June WTI crude oil is trading $70.30, up $0.58 or +0.86% and July Brent crude oil is at $75.40, up $0.53 or +0.71%.

Yuan-denominated futures for September delivery rose 2.9 percent to 460 yuan (US$72.27) per barrel on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. Shannon Rivkin, investment director of Australia's Rivkin Securities, said that oil prices had been driven up due to "growing concerns over the economic collapse of Venezuela and its oil industry, plus possible new sanctions against Iran from the Trump administration".

Trump, while refusing to disclose what he'll do by May 12, repeated his opinion that the existing accord is "a terrible agreement for the United States".

Meanwhile, the US' European allies continue to back the deal, saying it has been essential to reining in Iran's nuclear program.

With global supply already on a downward slope, Iran sanctions could be the last straw to shift the market dynamic, said Leigh Goehring of Goehring & Rozencwajg Associates. We are not just talking about a return to strained relations between the U.S. and Iran if Trump pulls out of the deal, but we also need to look at the risk of what impact this could have on regional markets within the Middle East. Since sanctions were eased as of January 2016, Iran's crude production has nearly doubled and its exports soared last month to record levels.

The increases came despite the addition of nine USA oil rigs in the week to May 4, bringing the count to a three-year high of 834, according to energy services firm Baker Hughes.

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