October 16, 2018 / 1:16 AM / a month ago

Oil prices rise on signs of falling Iranian oil exports

* Iran exports avg 1.33 mln bpd of crude in first two weeks of Oct

* Trump sends Pompeo to Saudi Arabia over missing Saudi journalist

* U.S. crude inventory likely to increase - Reuters poll

SEOUL, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Oil prices rose on Tuesday on signs of falling Iran oil exports ahead of U.S. sanctions against Tehran in November, while geopolitical tensions remain over a missing Saudi journalist.

International benchmark Brent crude for December delivery rose 9 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $80.87 per barrel by 0032 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery was up 5 cents at $71.83 a barrel.

Iran has exported 1.33 million barrels per day (bpd) to a few countries including India and China in the first two weeks of October, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

That was down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April before U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a multi-lateral nuclear deal with Iran in May.

As looming Iran sanctions raise supply concerns, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday the kingdom is committed to meeting India’s rising oil demand and is the “shock absorber” for supply disruptions in the oil market.

Saudi Arabia, however, has faced political pressure over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Oct.2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened “severe punishment” for the kingdom if the journalist is found to have been killed. Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman.

Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit the death of the Saudi journalist according to CNN and the New York Times reports on Monday.

“For now, concerns around the disappearance of a Saudi Arabian national appear to be limited to the political sphere,” a Huston-based consultancy Stratas Advisors said in a note.

But WTI prices could fall in the back half of the week, weighed by an increase in U.S. crude inventories, the note said.

U.S. crude stockpiles were forecast to have risen for the fourth straight week by about 1.1 million barrels in the week ended Oct.12, according to a Reuters poll ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The API’s data is due for publication at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Tuesday, and the EIA report is due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday. (Reporting By Jane Chung; editing by Richard Pullin)

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