Russia Sides With Iran as US Implements Sanctions

Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Supply concerns that drove crude to a four year high last month faded on speculation the United States would soften the blow of its sanctions on Iran to lower pump prices at home.

Brent crude futures, the global benchmark, fell 92 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $71.15 a barrel by 12:59 p.m. EDT (1759 GMT).

And Saudi production has recently been averaging a record 10.7 million barrels per day.

The US has exempted three Iranian nuclear sites from sanctions, but warned that they will be under strict scrutiny, the State Department said.

International Brent crude oil futures were down 21 cents, or 0.3 per cent, at $72.96 a barrel, while the U.S. West Texas Intermediate, WTI, crude futures were at $62.93 a barrel down 17 cents, or 0.3 per cent, from their last settlement.

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More US oil will likely come. However, the Trump administration granted temporary sanctions exemptions to eight countries, allowing Iranian crude exports to continue and easing concern about undersupply.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $70.69 a barrel, 4c above their last close.

US output meanwhile reached a new record high of 11.6 million bpd in the latest week and the country has now overtaken Russian Federation as the world's largest oil producer.

The sanctions are created to target Iranian oil exports and the country's financial sector and are aimed at dissuading third countries from doing business with Iran.

The US sanctions, meanwhile, are unlikely to cut supply as much as expected.

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Still, a return to oil production cuts by OPEC and its allies next year can not be ruled out, two OPEC sources said this week, to avert a possible supply glut.

Bernstein Energy expects "Iranian exports will average 1.4-million to 1.5-million barrels a day during the exemption period", down from a peak of nearly 3-million barrels a day in mid-2018. At the same time, Saudi Arabia - under an worldwide cloud over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi - had pledged to pump more oil to stabilize world markets. Over the past few months, OPEC has ratcheted up production amid calls from U.S. President Donald Trump to offset declines in Iranian shipments.

USA bank J.P. Morgan said "part of the recent sell-off in oil was due to excessive crude in the physical markets.from elevated production from OPEC whilst Iranian supply was still in the market despite reduction in reported exports".

Earlier this year, USA had withdrawn from Iran nuclear deal stating that all sanctions imposed on Iran before the nuclear deal would be imposed again and November 4 was the deadline for them to be re-imposed.

A ministerial committee of some OPEC members and allies meets on Sunday in Abu Dhabi to discuss the market and outlook for 2019.

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