United States exempts three Iranian nuclear sites from sanctions

Secretary Jeremy Hunt

America has already overtaken Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia to become the world's largest producer and figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggest it was averaging 11.6 million barrels per day last week.

The most interesting and unexpected part of the market in recent days is that the widely believed tough United States sanctions on Iran have eventually turned out to be less stringent even as eight countries, including India, have benefited from a sanctions waiver and can continue to import from Iran for the next six months at least.

After hitting a four-year high early last month, oil prices have fallen about 20 percent with Brent crude trading Thursday about $71 a barrel.

This group of eight buyers imported over 80 percent of Iran's oil exports previous year.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $61.76 per barrel, down 45 cents, or 0.7 per cent, from their last settlement.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May, and sanctions targeting the country's oil sector took effect on 4 November.

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The other producers in the top three, Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation, have been dialing up production since June. Iran said it has so far been able to sell as much oil as it needs to. These are also Iran's biggest buyers, meaning Iran will be allowed to still export some oil for now.

Prices of the WTI remain under heavy pressure amidst another build in stockpiles as reported by today's EIA and the API late on Tuesday. Demand in the biggest markets U.S., China, Europe, and India says Hinds "remains resilient".

"Jameel Ahmad, head of market research at futures brokerage FXTM said the "sanctions on Iran have been priced into the oil markets a long time ago", and that he would instead focus more heavily on the global demand outlook because of the ongoing external uncertainties weighing down on economic prospects". Russian Federation and the Saudis have pledged to increase production to more than make up for any lost Iranian supplies.

The US Department of State is likely to revise the compliance of the exempted countries in reducing their Iranian exports significantly to allow continued imports from Tehran, according to another analyst.

Even China, locked in a bitter trade war with the United States, bowed to pressure from Washington and dialed back imports. But the broadly united front of world powers that enforced sanctions on Iran previously, pushing Iran into nuclear restraint, has unraveled since Trump took office and clashed with allies over everything from trade to collective security.

Distillate inventories were down this week by 3.64 million barrels, compared to a smaller expected draw of 2.775 million bpd.

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