LONDON and SEOUL (Bloomberg) — Oil rose to $80/bbl for the first time since 2014 as U.S. crude inventories fell and traders braced for the impact of renewed sanctions on OPEC member Iran.
Crude has rallied this month on concern that President Donald Trump’s decision to quit an international accord with Iran and reimpose sanctions will strain global supplies just as markets are already tightening. The glut that had weighed on prices for the past three years has finally been eliminated, thanks to strong demand and output cuts by other producers in OPEC, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.
Oil’s advance to $80 brings it to the level that OPEC’s biggest member, Saudi Arabia, is reportedly seeking to cover the cost of weighty domestic spending commitments. However the IEA — which advises oil-consuming nations — has warned that prices are high enough to hurt consumption, and trimmed its forecasts for demand growth.
“Supply concerns are top of mind after the U.S. left the Iran nuclear deal,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of macro and commodity research at Julius Baer Group Ltd. in Zurich. “The geopolitical noise and escalation fears are here to stay.”
Brent for July settlement rose as much as $0.90 to $80.18/bbl on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, the highest since November 2014, and traded for $79.79. The global benchmark crude traded at a $7.68 premium to WTI crude for delivery the same month.
WTI’s June contract traded at $72.06/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $0.57, after climbing $0.18 on Wednesday. Total volume traded was 41% above the 100-day average.
Futures for September delivery on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange gained 1.9% to 481.9 yuan/bbl, rising for a third day.
U.S. crude stockpiles slipped for a second week as the summer driving season approaches, government data showed on Wednesday. Inventories fell 1.4 MMbbl, while domestic production rose to 10.7 MMbpd, the EIA said. Gasoline stockpiles also shrank last week by 3.79 MMbbl, the EIA reported.
Members of OPEC, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, said they have enough capacity to fill in any supply gap if renewed sanctions curtail Iran’s exports. Still, Goldman Sachs Group. said OPEC won’t proactively replace the lost barrels, given its current narrative that the market isn’t fully re-balanced.
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Gasoline futures were up 0.4% at $2.2596/gal, the highest since October 2014. Since the European Union is unlikely to follow the U.S. in re-imposing sanctions on Iran, the overall impact on the Persian Gulf state’s exports will be “far more muted” than in the past, tanker tracker Petro-Logistics said in a note.
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Increased geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, plunging Venezuelan production, and now the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal could push Brent Crude prices to $82.50 a barrel by summer, Goldman Sachs said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said that the United States would withdrawfrom “an unacceptable Iran deal”, re-imposing sanctions on Tehran that “target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors.”
The U.S. will target Iran’s crude oil sales, and sanctions that were lifted under the deal will be re-imposed following a 180-day wind-down period, the U.S. Treasury said.
The return of the sanctions could initially reduce by 500,000 bpd Iran’s current crude oil production of 3.8 million bpd, Goldman Sachs said in a note today, as carried by Reuters.
A loss of 500,000 bpd of Iranian crude oil supply would push up oil prices by around $6.20 a barrel, according to Goldman Sachs.
“Such elevated oil geopolitical risks exacerbate the upside risks to Brent forecasts and reinforce our view that oil price volatility will continue to increase,” the investment bank’s analysts wrote.
At 11:20 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, both WTI and Brent prices were surging nearly 3 percent, with Brent touching $77 a barrel, following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and EIA’s weekly inventory report showing draws across the board.
Commenting on the impact of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal, Sukrit Vijayakar, director of energy consultancy Trifecta, told Reuters on Wednesday:
“Iran’s exports of oil to Asia and Europe will almost certainly decline later this year and into 2019 as some nations seek alternatives in order to avoid trouble with Washington and as sanctions start to bite.”
Several Asian refiners told Reuters that they were already on the lookout for alternatives to Iranian crude oil deliveries.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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