Oil steadies below four-year highs; US inventory rise expected

Thursday, 04 Oct, 2018

Bloomberg reports that India has no plans to purchase Iran's oil starting in November with South Korea and Japan pledging the same.

"Our oil analysts believe there is now a growing risk it (crude) could touch $100 per barrel", HSBC said.

USA oil prices hit their highest level since November 2014 and Brent crude was also near a four-year peak reached the previous day, with markets preparing for tighter supply once US sanctions against Iran kick in next month.

A Reuters survey of OPEC production found Iranian output in September fell by 100,000 barrels per day, while production from the group as a whole rose by 90,000 bpd from August. In Iran, crude exports declined to their lowest in 2 1/2 years before the impending return of US sanctions.

There had been expectations China would ignore USA sanctions.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said late Tuesday that its own data for the week showed a 907,000-barrel increase in crude supplies, a 1.7 million-barrel decline in gasoline stocks and a 1.2 million-barrel decrease in distillate inventories, according to a market participant.

Front-month Brent crude futures have jumped by almost $14 per barrel (20 percent) since the middle of August, including an increase of nearly $6 (7 percent) since the JMMC meeting, to their highest in almost four years.

Brent sweet crude oil futures rose to as much as 83.27 dollars a barrel.

Iran could lose up to 1.5 million barrels per day when USA sanctions kick in early November. Oil supply and prices are common interests of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

With just weeks left until the sanctions are imposed, oil buyers are looking for new suppliers to avoid breaching the United States sanctions, which take effect from November 4.

"If Chinese refiners do comply with US sanctions more fully than expected, then the market balance is likely to tighten even more aggressively", Edward Bell, commodity analyst at Emirates NBD bank wrote in a note published on Sunday.

Trump has been increasing pressure on OPEC, saying it's pushing oil prices too high.

The pair discussed efforts to maintain supplies to ensure the stability of the oil market and growth of the global economy, plus the strategic partnership between the two countries, Al Arabiya TV reported, without providing more details. Britain's Barclays bank, however, said "OPEC has ample spare capacity".