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Oil prices rise 1% ahead of US sanctions against Iran
[SINGAPORE] Oil prices rose by 1 per cent on Thursday as investors focused on the prospect of tighter markets due to US sanctions against major crude exporter Iran, which are set to be implemented in November.
Front-month Brent crude futures were at US$82.17 per barrel at 0133 GMT, up by 83 US cents, or 1 per cent from their last close, just off Tuesday's four-year highs.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at US$72.41 a barrel, up 84 US cents, or 1.2 per cent from their last settlement.
Traders said oil markets were tightening ahead of Washington's planned sanctions on Iran's petroleum industry from Nov. 4.
"We view that crude market risks are heavily skewed to the upside and whilst we are not explicitly forecasting Brent to rise to US$100 per barrel, we see material risks of this coming to fruition," Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group said in a note to clients.
At its 2018 peak, Iran exported around 3 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil, equivalent to 3 per cent of global consumption.
Shipping data shows Iran September exports fell to around 2 million bpd as buyers around the world bow to US pressure and cut imports.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has little spare capacity to make up for an expected shortfall in Iranian exports.
Reflecting expectations of lower supply from the Middle East, Oman crude futures on the Dubai Mercantile Exchange touched their highest in four years on Wednesday, briefly jumping above US$90 a barrel.
"Oil prices remain in the Bulls domain amid concern that US sanctions on Iranian crude oil exports will result in much tighter physical market conditions once they take effect in November," said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA in Singapore.
"Markets could still be underestimating the supply crunch from Iran sanctions," he added.
While global oil markets tighten, supply in the United States is ample, thanks to rising output.
US crude production hit a record 11.1 million bpd in the week ending Sept. 21, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
That's an increase of almost a third since mid-2016. Commercial crude stocks rose by 1.85 million barrels, to 395.99 million barrels, the EIA data showed.