Oil prices rise on lower U.S. crude inventories, looming Iran sanctions

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose on Wednesday following a report that crude inventories in the United States fell and as looming sanctions against Iran raised expectations of tightening supplies, with top producer Russia warning of a “fragile” global crude market.

FILE PHOTO: A pumpjack is seen at the Sinopec-operated Shengli oil field in Dongying, Shandong province, China January 12, 2017. Picture taken January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chen Aizhu

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $69.81 per barrel at 0047 GMT, up 56 cents, or 0.8 percent, from their last settlement. WTI futures gained 2.5 percent in the previous session.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 climbed 24 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $79.30 a barrel. Brent has climbed for four straight days and gained 2.2 percent in the previous session.

“Oil prices jumped overnight as American Petroleum Institute inventory data showed a large drawdown in inventories,” said William O’Loughlin, investment analyst at Australia’s Rivkin Securities.

U.S. crude stocks fell by 8.6 million barrels in the week to Sept. 7 to 395.9 million barrels, the American Petroleum Institute (API), a private industry group, said on Tuesday.

Official weekly government data will be published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.

Outside the United States, traders have been focusing on the impact of U.S. sanctions against Iran that will target oil exports from November.

Washington has put pressure on other governments to also cut imports, and many countries and companies are already falling in line and reducing purchases, triggering expectations of a tighter market.

“FRAGILE” MARKET

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak on Wednesday warned of the impact the U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“This is huge uncertainty on the market – how the countries, which buy almost 2 million barrels per day of Iranian oil will act. The situation should be closely watched, the right decisions should be taken,” he said.

Novak said global oil markets were “fragile” due to geopolitical risk and supply disruptions, but added his country could raise output if needed.

“It is related to the fact that not all the countries have managed to restore their market and production,” he said, referring to outages and falling production in Mexico and Venezuela.

Should markets overheat and prices spike, Novak said Russia could raise output.

“Russia has potential to raise production by 300,000 barrels (per day) mid-term, in addition to the level of October 2016,” he said.

That month Russia produced 11.247 million barrels per day, a post-Soviet Union record high.

Crude prices were also pushed up by Hurricane Florence offshore the United States amid surging demand for gasoline and diesel. The storm is expected to make landfall on the U.S. East Coast on Friday, and has caused fuel shortages as millions of households and businesses have evacuated.

Front month gasoline futures RBV8 rose 0.5 percent on Wednesday while heating oil futures HOV8 increased 0.4 percent.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger