United States crude stockpiles fall less than expected

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Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 26 cents to $66.68 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude futures were up 14 cents at $72.42 barrel by 0855 GMT, after having dropped by more than 3 percent on Wednesday. The Turkish lira fell to a new record low against the dollar amid a dispute with the USA government, while the Russian ruble also dropped after US sanctions on the country over its alleged involvement in poisonings in Britain. China's Unipec has suspended United States oil imports due to a growing trade spat between Washington and Beijing.

Less than a year after first oil from the U.S. was imported into India, state-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) has signed up to buy crude oil from the USA through a term-tender deal, a senior company official said.

On the 4 hour chart, crude oil is crossing above a solid resistance level of $69.45.

Today, the bulls jumped in after President Donald Trump tweeted that the sanctions were "the most biting sanctions ever imposed".

Global stock markets were mixed Thursday with European stocks trading lower after Chinese markets finished with sharp gains, as investors focus on developments in the trade dispute between the United States and China. Traders are trying to establish a new balance point in the market.

Analysts expect the USA sanctions to take between 500,000 bpd and 1 million bpd of Iranian crude oil off the market when full sanctions return in early November, and some experts think that the figure will be closer to 1 million bpd.

While the trade war and the USA inventories report dragged oil prices down on Wednesday, for the coming months, investors, traders, and analysts expect the return of the US sanctions on Iran to continue keeping a floor under the price of oil.

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Concerns over recent figures from Chinese crude oil exports have been weighing on traders' sentiment, although the descent should be somewhat tempered by rising speculations of further USA sanctions against Iran.

"The US is pursuing a strategy to aggressively curb Iranian oil exports by November", UBS analysts led by Giovanni Staunovo wrote in a note.

Iranian crude oil loadings to China and India increased significantly in July compared to the previous month despite US threats, a Platts survey showed. If more oil leaves the market than expected then the bulls will win the supply/demand battle.

Official U.S. fuel storage data is due to be released later on Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Oil prices fell from more than $100 a barrel in 2014 to less than $30 a barrel in early 2016 amid a supply glut, but have recovered to trade above $70 a barrel since April, as output curbs by the Opec cartel of producers and other countries helped to reduce supplies.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 1.2 million barrels, versus expectations for a 220,000 barrels increase, the EIA data showed.

They said Iranian exports were likely to drop by up to 1 million bpd by November but even that could push Brent to $85 per barrel if oil markets were hit by other disruptions in producer countries such as Libya or Venezuela.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 7.9 million barrels a day, up by 182,000 compared with the previous week.

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