Mar.7 (Dow Jones) -- Banks in February left their overall forecasts for oil prices in 2019 unchanged from January, even as they widely expected prices to rise through the first half of the year on the back of OPEC-led production curbs and geopolitical risks to global supply.

Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, is expected to continue to average over $67 a barrel in 2019, according to a poll of 11 investment banks conducted by The Wall Street Journal. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. oil standard, is expected to average nearly $60 a barrel this year, the poll showed. Both estimates are in line with last months bank forecasts.

Oil prices will gradually rise through Q3 on the back of producer supply cuts engaged by OPEC and its non-OPEC allies, alongside involuntary output reductions in countries that face supply risks like Venezuela, Libya or Nigeria, said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity research at BNP Paribas . The move up in oil prices is, however, predicated on macroeconomic risk tied to U.S.-China trade tensions remaining at bay, he added.

Brent rose 0.9% to $66.57 a barrel on Thursday morning while WTI was up 0.7% at $56.60 a barrel.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and 10 partner producers outside the oil-cartel, led by Russia, agreed late last year to collectively hold back crude output by 1.2 million barrels a day for the first half of this year, compared with October levels. OPEC agreed to handle 800,000 barrels a day of those cuts, while the Russia-led coalition agreed to shoulder the remainder.

The decision has helped to bolster crude prices by roughly 20% since the start of the year. Prices had plummeted by around 40% in the fourth quarter of last year, from four-year highs breached at the start of October.

Production also come down in Iran and Venezuela, two key cartel members who were exempted from the latest production-cut deal as a result of U.S. sanctions on those countries oil industries. Libya, who also exempt from the December deal, and Nigeria, which is participating in the coordinated cuts, could both face supply outages in the future as a result of civil unrest, analysts say.

OPECs output declined by 550,000 barrels a day in February, bringing the total fall in production since October to 2.2 million barrels a day, according to consultancy JBC Energy.

The fundamental backdrop sets the stage for a tight second quarter, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis. But the analysis warned that a long-term bullish outlook for the year should be tempered in the second half by the resurgence in U.S. shale oil.

Permian basin pipeline expansions with adequate export capacity will de-bottleneck U.S. shale supplies into the global export markets, Goldman Sachs said.

In 2020, banks expect Brent and WTI crude-oil prices to average $68 a barrel and nearly $63 a barrel, respectively, the Journal poll showed. Thats on par with last months forecasts for next year.

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Fecha de publicación: 07/03/2019