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Oil slips as economic concerns outweigh tighter supply

18 September 2018

Analysts warned that oil prices could hit fresh highs after Iran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the world's busiest oil shipping lane, in response to US sanctions.

Despite the supply-side risks posed by Venezuela and Iran, however, spare capacity in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, coupled with potential output recovery in Libya and Nigeria, could help balance the market.

The energy information administration and the International Energy Agency, a global group of oil-consuming nations, had predicted that the USA would eventually pass Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia but possibly not until 2019.

President Trump withdrew Washington in May from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries in 2015, and chose to re-impose unilateral sanctions against Tehran. Washington is pushing allies to cut imports of Iranian oil to zero and will introduce a new round of sanctions on Iranian oil sales on 5 November.

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Benchmark Brent crude was up 16 cents or 0.2 percent at $78.34 a barrel after falling 2 percent on Thursday.

"The looming supply gap that the loss of Iranian oil exports represents is still ahead of us and that early November U.S. deadline to reduced imports to zero is fast approaching".

Still, the IEA remained cautious in its report, stating that "We are entering a very crucial period for the oil market".

The flawed Iran nuclear deal was determined not to be the right vehicle to address the range of Iran's malign behaviour, she said.

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In May, US President Donald Trump pulled out of an worldwide nuclear deal with Iran, OPEC's third-biggest producer, and announced the imposition of sanctions.

"Regime change in Iran is not American policy, but what we want is massive change in the regime's behavior", Bolton said, adding, "We are going to do other things to put pressure on Iran as well, beyond economic sanctions".

While oil prices strengthened in recent weeks on the lower supply outlook out of Iran, investors should keep in mind that OPEC can step in at anytime to fill in the gap.

Iran's exports so far this month slumped to around 1.3 million barrels a day. Saudi Arabia's oil production could rise to the level of 11 million barrels per day if the demand sustains. In addition to this, the supply issues increased due to data revealing that USA crude production plunged by 100k bpd (barrels per day) to 10.9 million bpd during the previous week.

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The pause in shipments to China has coincided with the return of Iranian oil stored on tankers close to the country's export terminals.

Oil slips as economic concerns outweigh tighter supply