July 16, 2019 / 12:49 AM / 4 months ago

Oil falls as Iran tensions seen easing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices turned lower on Tuesday, falling more than 3% after U.S. President Donald Trump said progress has been made with Iran, signaling tensions could ease in the Mideast.

FILE PHOTO: Oil pumps are seen after sunset outside Vaudoy-en-Brie, near Paris, France November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Brent crude futures LCOc1 fell $2.13 a barrel, or 3.2%, to settle at $64.35. The international benchmark hit a session high of $67.09 earlier in the day.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 settled at $57.62 a barrel, down $1.96, or 3.3%. The U.S. benchmark hit a session high of $60.06 early in the trading day.

“What were tailwinds have become headwinds,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. He said the same U.S.-Iran tensions that had driven prices higher earlier in the session put a damper on the market after Trump’s comments.

Trump on Tuesday said a lot of progress had been made with Iran and that he was not looking for regime change in the country.

Trump, who made the remarks at a Cabinet meeting in the White House, did not give details about the progress, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the meeting Iran had said it was prepared to negotiate about its missile program.

Tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program have previously lent support to oil futures, given the potential for a price spike should the situation deteriorate.

Uncertainty about China’s economic prospects also pressured prices lower after data on Monday showed growth in the country had slowed to 6.2% from a year earlier, the weakest pace in at least 27 years.

Additionally, U.S. oil companies on Monday began restoring some of the nearly 74% of production that was shut at platforms in the Gulf of Mexico because of Hurricane Barry.

Workers were returning to the more than 280 production platforms that had been evacuated. It can take several days for full production to resume.

The storm will probably result in a noticeable decline in U.S. crude oil stocks this week, analysts at Commerzbank said.

Inventory data will be published by the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday evening, and by the U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday.

Some say bullish inventory data is structural, and not attributable only to the storm.

“Beyond the storm we feel we’re in a tightening inventory mode through August,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst with Price Futures Group in Chicago.

(GRAPHIC - U.S. Oil drilling and storage png: tmsnrt.rs/2Ino7XU)

Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown

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