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Oil Holds Above $57 as Iran Tension Keeps Investors Wary


By Tsuyoshi Inajima and Grant Smith

(Bloomberg)Oil held above $57 as rising tension in the Middle East kept investors wary of potential supply disruptions.Futures in New York were little changed after rallying 2.2% over the previous three sessions. European powers urged Iran to reverse its decision to breach the levels of uranium enrichment restrictions under the 2015 nuclear accord, but stopped short of threatening sanctions. Tensions remain high after British forces seized a tanker carrying Iranian crude near Gibraltar last week.

Oil fell last week as concern that global demand will keep deteriorating outweighed a decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies to extend production cuts into 2020. While U.S.-China discussions are starting up again, the White House has warned that reaching an agreement will take time. Investors are also waiting for Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s testimony to Congress this week, which may offer clarity on rate cuts.

“The oil market is caught in a bind and does not know which way to go or trend,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London.

West Texas Intermediate oil for August delivery fell 6 cents to $57.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 10:52 a.m. in London after climbing as much as 0.7% earlier. The U.S. benchmark lost 1.6% last week.

Brent for September settlement rose 11 cents to $64.34 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange. The contract closed 1.5% higher on Friday. The global benchmark crude traded at a $6.79 premium to WTI for the same month.

With the Iran nuclear accord in jeopardy, French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to find a diplomatic solution. On Saturday night, France and Iran agreed to resume nuclear talks by mid-July. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a tweet Sunday that Iran’s latest expansion of its nuclear program “will lead to further isolation and sanctions.”

The restart of U.S.-China trade talks came after Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to the second truce in their trade war last month. They have given no time-frame for the discussion or a deadline to strike an agreement. On Friday, an influential blog connected to Chinese state media said the talks will “go backward again” without the removal of U.S. tariffs, echoing the line from the Ministry of Commerce’s weekly briefing on Thursday.

Other oil-market news:
  • Money managers pushed bets on a decline in Brent crude prices to the highest since mid-January in the week ended July 2.
  • Oil tanker owners are avoiding sending their ships to the Middle East’s main refueling hub of Fujairah after a spate of attacks on vessels in the past two months ratcheted up tensions.
  • Iran is producing oil at the slowest clip since 1986, making U.S. sanctions on crude sales as effective as the devastating Iraq-Iran war.


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