Oil markets firm amid OPEC cuts, Iran sanctions

Crude oil prices held firm on Tuesday as ongoing production cuts by OPEC and looming USA sanctions against Iran tightened the market amid signs of ongoing strong demand.

Disruption in Iran could force OPEC to adjust up production levels earlier than it had expected and could prompt USA shale drillers in West Texas to drill more.

Michael Wittner, analyst at Societe Generale, forecasts USA sanctions will remove 400,000 to 500,000 bpd of Iranian crude from the global market.

The United States has announced it will impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, raising fears that markets will face shortages later this year when trade restrictions take effect. While there is "a lot of geopolitical stuff going on", the current oil rally is underpinned by real demand, not the headlines, he said.

China remained the largest export destination for Iranian oil, with flows rising to 714,467 barrels per day last month, up just over 20,000 barrels per day in March.

Turning to the latest developments, OPEC data showed that crude oil inventories in developed (OECD) countries continued to fall.

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U.S. shale oil production is expected to rise by about 145,000 bpd to a record 7.18 million bpd in June, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Monday.

President Donald Trump is set to announce Tuesday whether the US will waive sanctions against Iran as part of landmark nuclear agreement or exit the deal, a move that experts and officials have said could have a huge impact on oil and gas prices.

According to the RAC's fuel spokesman, Simon Williams, the weak pound and high oil prices are a "toxic combination" for drivers anxious about the cost of filling up. Traders will again look for changes in supply and demand expectations.

The US is not a member of Opec which accounts for more than 40 percent of the global oil market. They have been trying to drive down oil stockpiles in developed countries to the five-year average.

ANZ bank said Trump's decision "puts into place a scenario that could see the crude oil market tighten significantly in H2 2018 and into next year".

However, in keeping with the somber tone of analytical outlook, media published the ruminations of Arthur Berman, a former Amoco scientist who now works as an industry consultant, and who believes that neither the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico that currently pumps more oil than any other North American field, nor the Eagle Ford sales field several hundred miles away, will last for long. If another couple of pence a litre goes on, it could take the average cost of a litre of unleaded to 126.5p - a price last seen in October 2014 - which would make filling up a 55-litre family auto cost almost £70'. Daily technical indicators all indicate bullish sentiment confirmed by short- and long-term moving averages.

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