Oil drops as Iran signals support for OPEC production rise

Commercial US crude inventories dropped by 5.9 million barrels in the week to June 15, to 426.53 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration said. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2018
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Oil drops as Iran signals support for OPEC production rise

  • Prices were prevented from dropping further by robust US fuel demand seen in record refinery runs, strong travel data and a large decline in crude inventories
  • Beyond the short-term, Barclays said there were headwinds for oil prices

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell on Thursday as Iran signaled it could be won over to a small rise in OPEC crude output, potentially paving the way for the producer cartel to agree a supply increase during a meeting on Friday.
However, prices were prevented from dropping further by robust US fuel demand seen in record refinery runs, strong travel data and a large decline in crude inventories.
Brent crude futures were at $74.33 per barrel at 0426 GMT, down 41 cents, or 0.55 percent, from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $65.50 a barrel, down 21 cents, or 0.3 percent.
Iran, a major supplier within the producer cartel of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), signaled on Wednesday it could agree on a small increase in the group’s output during a meeting to be held at OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna on June 22 together with non-OPEC member but top producer Russia.
“There appears to be an air of confidence that this deal will move through,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore.
“We expect OPEC and Russia to gradually add supplies back to the market by next year, mostly offsetting the almost 1 million barrels per day (bpd) supply disruption in Venezuela,” Barclays bank said.
Tehran had previously resisted pressure by OPEC’s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia to raise output.
Even with Iran appearing to fall in line, analysts do not expect a harmonious OPEC meeting.
“Our expectations are for a tense, discordant and highly geopolitical OPEC+ meeting,” said Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in a note to clients.
OPEC, together with other key producers including Russia, started withholding output in 2017 to prop up prices, but a tightening market in 2018 led to calls by major consumers for more supplies.
In a sign of strong demand, US refineries processed a seasonal record of 17.7 million bpd of crude oil last week, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.
This comes as a record 46.9 million Americans are expected to travel during the upcoming July 4 holiday, according to the American Automobile Association on Thursday, which is seen as a leading indicator for US fuel demand.
Amid healthy consumption, commercial US crude inventories dropped by 5.9 million barrels in the week to June 15, to 426.53 million barrels, the EIA said.
US crude oil production was flat week-on-week, remaining at a record 10.9 million bpd.
Beyond the short-term, Barclays said there were headwinds for oil prices.
“Deleveraging in China and a weakening in the narrative around synchronous global economic growth are likely to add headwinds for all commodities,” it said.


OPEC chief: Group must stay together as US sanctions Iran

Updated 25 min 41 sec ago
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OPEC chief: Group must stay together as US sanctions Iran

  • Production cut agreement now a "permanent feature"
  • Brent already near $80 per barrel

FUJAIRAH: OPEC must stick together for the good of the global economy as founding member Iran faces renewed US sanctions, the head of the group said Tuesday — though he did not address how an already-tight market will make up for the loss of Iranian supply.
Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo also said an agreement between OPEC and non-members that cut production and helped bring prices back up from lows of $30 a barrel in January 2016 was now “a permanent feature.”
Cementing that arrangement would be one of the topics of discussion as OPEC meets this Sunday in Algeria, he added.
Still, OPEC will face rising anger from Iran, which feels increasingly under pressure after President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May.
Crushing US oil sanctions on Iran will resume in early November and already, American allies in Asia are cutting back on their purchases of Iranian crude.
The US moves have gotten furious reactions from Iran, especially amid talk of American officials asking Russia and Saudi Arabia to make up the difference.
“Mr. Trump’s attempt to prevent Iran from appearing on the global crude oil markets has allowed Russia and Saudi Arabia, which would not favor low prices, to pursue hostage-taking policies in the market,” Iranian OPEC governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili said on Saturday.
Barkindo said: “Iran is not only a founding member of OPEC, it’s a very important member of this organization. We have no choice but continue to work with all parties.”
Benchmark Brent crude already is nearing $80 a barrel and analysts believe it may go even higher as production remains low. A loss of Iranian supply likely will further drive up prices.
Trump, facing midterm elections in the US, already has called for more oil production from Saudi Arabia and OPEC to bring down prices with limited effect. A gallon of regular gasoline costs on average $2.85 in the US, up from $2.62 a year ago, according to AAA.
Barkindo praised the agreement between OPEC and non-members that cut production and said the cartel would work to make it permanent.
“The declaration of cooperation has come to stay,” he said.