Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Oil Steady as U.S.-Iran Row Balances Trade Worries

Posted by July 24, 2018

© Andrey Burmakin / Adobe Stock

Oil prices steadied on Tuesday as tension between the United States and Iran highlighted risks to supply and trade disputes raised the prospect of slower economic growth and weaker energy demand.

Brent crude oil was down 10 cents at $72.96 a barrel by 1328 GMT. U.S. light crude was unchanged at $67.89.

"The impact on oil supplies if U.S.-Iran tensions escalate significantly cannot be underestimated," said Abhishek Kumar, senior analyst at Interfax Energy. "Market participants are also keeping a close eye on the U.S.-China trade war."

Both crude oil benchmarks have fallen this month as crude supplies from Russia, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have increased and some unscheduled production losses have eased.

Market sentiment has been driven by geopolitical worries, namely fears that supply could be disrupted by confrontation in the Middle East or that Washington's trade dispute with its major trading partners could dampen global growth.

Iran, OPEC's third-largest producer which pumps 3.75 million barrels a day, has come under increasing U.S. pressure, with the administration of President Donald Trump pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November.

Saudi Arabia and other large producers are ramping up output to offset losses that are likely to come as the November deadline approaches.

G20 finance leaders voiced concern over the weekend about the risk to global growth from trade tensions between the United States and China, among others.

"It is surely only a matter of time before something tangible yields from the ongoing trade war stories and it probably won't be a pretty outcome," said Matt Stanley, a fuel oil broker at Freight Investors Services in Dubai.

"I imagine crude will stay in a fairly narrow range over the next few days," Stanley said.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude inventories at the U.S. crude futures delivery hub at Cushing, Oklahoma rose in the four days to Friday, according to data supplier Genscape, traders said.

On a weekly basis, stockpiles at the hub were expected to fall for the 10th consecutive week, traders said.

A Reuters survey on Monday estimated on average that total U.S. crude stocks fell by 3.2 million barrels last week, after rising in the previous week.

U.S. industry body the American Petroleum Institute will release its inventories data for last week at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Tuesday.

Reporting by Christopher Johnson in LONDON and Aaron Sheldrick in TOKYO

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