Oil up over 2% on concerns over Iran, slower United States output growth

Oil prices climb as Iran sanctions loom

Regarding crude oil production, the EIA said on Tuesday it expected USA output to rise by 840,000 barrels per day (bpd) between 2018 and 2019 to 11.5 million bpd, lower than a rise of 1.02 million bpd to 11.7 million that was previously forecast.

Saudi Arabia wants oil to stay between $70 and $80 a barrel for now as the world's biggest crude exporter strikes a balance between maximizing revenue and keeping a lid on prices until USA congressional elections in November, OPEC and industry sources have told Reuters.

This is one reason that the discount for US crude versus Brent has widened to around $10 per barrel, the biggest since June, traders said.

Oil prices have surged to within an inch of $80 (£61) a barrel as Hurricane Florence nears the U.S. east coast and could climb to multi-year highs by the end of the week, analysts have suggested.

EIA forecasts Brent spot prices to average $74 per barrel in 2019.

"The fact that much higher supply is already needed from the likes of Saudi Arabia - and the low levels of spare capacity remaining - leave the global system highly vulnerable to any further significant outage", he said.

Benchmark Brent crude oil was up 50 cents at $77.87 a barrel by 0750 GMT.

"Iran is increasingly becoming the preoccupation of the crude market". Perry will meet with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Thursday in Moscow.

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With Middle East crude markets also tightening, many Asian refiners are seeking alternative supplies, with South Korean and Japanese imports of US crude hitting a record in September.

Major Japanese refiners were said last week to have officially notified Iran that they would halt all imports of Iranian oil for October while they wait for the Japan-U.S. talks on Iranian oil importers to make a permanent decision on how to proceed in November.

Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia are the world's three biggest oil producers by far, meeting around a third of the world's nearly 100 million barrels per day (bpd) of daily crude consumption.

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak on Wednesday said, "This is huge uncertainty on the market - how the countries, which buy nearly 2 million barrels per day of Iranian oil will act".

"Going forward, economic uncertainty, and hence questions surrounding global oil demand, coupled with geopolitical tensions, will need to be factored into maintaining a balanced market in the months to come", the report said.

Oil demand growth in 2019 is expected to rise by 250,000 bpd, a decrease from EIA's previous projection for an increase of 290,000 bpd.

Oil traders were also watching the progress of category 4 Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall in the U.S. by Friday.

Crude output will not be affected by the "monster" storm, but the evacuation of more than a million residents, as well as businesses, has prompted a near-term spike in fuel demand.

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