Oil struggles near $68 as inventory gain overshadows Iran fears

Naval officers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

At 1040 GMT, July ICE Brent crude futures were up 2 cents at $73.82/b, after rising from negative territory earlier in the morning, while the June NYMEX light sweet crude contract was up 16 cents at $68.56/b.

Oil prices rose on Thursday, boosted by OPEC production cuts and the potential for new USA sanctions against Iran, but gains were limited by growing US crude inventories. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were 10 cents lower at $67.83 per barrel.

ANZ has a 12-month target for Brent of $80 a barrel.

Technical analysis from Reuters' Wang Tao showed the market may retest a price support level at $72.39 a barrel after peaking near a resistance at $75.45.

"It may signal stronger-than-expected demand in Asia", Fritsch said.

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Turning to recent news, concerns regarding the Iran nuclear deal are dominating crude oil headlines. Although European powers want to see the Iranian nuclear deal, they have also begun to work on defending EU-Iran business relations if Trump does withdraw from the deal.

However, Kemp posited a troubling possibility: while current high crude prices have enabled the kingdom to stabilize its drawdown on foreign reserves, it's questionable whether even further crude price gains will enable it to diversify: "Economic transformation will need hundreds of billions of dollars, and financing can come only from the kingdom's internal resources, or in the form of foreign loans, equity sales or direct investment". "Investors are anxious about supplies after Iran took a tough stance in its response to the United States", said Wang Xiao, head of crude research with Guotai Junan Futures. But they have also started work on protecting European Union.

The May 12 deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether to continue waiving U.S. sanctions against Iran was also buffeting downward pressure on prices.

If the United States does decide to withdraw from the deal, as many analysts expect, that would be bullish for oil prices in the long-term, although some expect that if a withdrawal has been baked into current levels for crude, an immediate sell-off could follow. U.S. production, driven by the explosion of shale output, is forecast to surpass 11 million b/d before the end of this year, which would make the USA the world's largest crude producer, surpassing both Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation at current rates.

Iran re-emerged as a major oil exporter in January 2016 when worldwide sanctions against Tehran were suspended in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear programme.

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