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Crude oil futures end higher on Thursday

Crude oil futures ended higher on Thursday as traders reacted to the possibility of US sanctions on Venezuelan crude amid intensifying political tensions in the South American nation. The situation in Venezuela could give support to the oil markets if sanctions are put forward, but the builds in US inventories were unexpected. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that domestic crude supplies climbed by 8 million barrels for the week ended January 18. Separately, the EIA's annual energy outlook report released said US crude oil production is expected to continue to set annual records through the mid-2020s and will remain greater than 14.0 million barrels per day through 2040. The report also said that US will become a net energy exporter by 2020 as US crude production increases and domestic consumption of petroleum products decreases.

Benchmark crude oil futures for March rose 51 cents or 1 percent to settle $53.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while March Brent crude lost a nickel or less than 0.1 percent to settle at $61.09 a barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange.

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