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Prices maintained support, however, from tight supply and planned US sanctions against Iran that are likely to restrict crude oil exports from one of the biggest producers in the Middle East.

Mousavi, whose NIOTC is tasked with controlling Iran's oil export facilities, went on to say that Iran now had no oil stored in its tankers, which means that the Islamic republic goes on selling its oil reserves, with exports as of March 2017-2018 hitting roughly 800 million barrels, IRNA reported.

But Saudi Arabia could still keep supply constrained as it needs higher oil prices to fund its government.

Now the United States has announced it will impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, raising fears that markets will face shortages later this year when trade restrictions come into effect.

Oil rallied this month to the highest since 2014 as tensions in the Middle East escalated and after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 accord that had curbed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. But how much those exports fall will depend on the reaction of the countries that import Iranian oil: China, France, Russia, U.K.

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"The clash in Israel worsened market sentiment over geopolitical risks in the Middle East, even though it wouldn't directly impact oil's supply and demand", Mikiko Tate, a senior analyst at Sumitomo Corporation Global Research, said by phone from Tokyo. The mere talk of forcing Iran to reduce the amount of oil they bring to the table, pushed oil prices above $70 per barrel for the first time since 2014.

As a supply loss in collapsing Venezuela and a potential decline in Iranian oil exports push oil prices up, the pace of demand growth in China could drive global demand growth higher.

Since late 2017, longer-dated US oil futures contracts are trading at prices lower than nearer-term contracts, a configuration known as backwardation, indicating that the market at least currently doesn't believe prices will continue to be as high as they are now, longer term.

Speaking to analysts, Scaffardi said the lack of Iranian crude supplies would be a problem in terms of prices but not volumes. US drillers added 10 oil rigs in the week to May 11, bringing the total count to 844, the highest level since March 2015, energy services firm Baker Hughes said on Friday.

South Korea imported 1.24 million tonnes of Iranian crude, or 303,025 barrels per day (bpd), in April, down from 1.41 million tonnes from previous year, according to the customs data.


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