Oil touches 3½-year high after U.S. quits Iran deal

An oil pump is seen at sunset outside Vaudoy-en-Brie

The United States said on Tuesday that it plans to impose new sanctions against Iran after abandoning an agreement reached in late 2015 that curbed Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for removal of U.S. and European sanctions.

In a research note, Gregory Daco of analyst firm Oxford Economics pointed out that Iran's oil production has grown around 1 million barrels per day to 3.8 million barrels per day since US sanctions were lifted a year ago.

The price for Brent crude oil was down 0.1 percent to $77.13 per barrel as of 9:15 a.m. EDT.

Energy industry insiders say Trump's tough stance on Iran will probably keep oil and gasoline prices higher than they would otherwise be.

"Short of war, the only way Iran's crude sales could be disrupted is if European and certain Asian buyers revert back to their pre-2015 embargo policy - and there is virtually zero chance of that", Raymond James energy analyst Pavel Molchanov said in email. The crude draw was largely due to a decline in imports, which fell by the most since November 2016.

A third OPEC source also said it was too soon to tell if extra oil was needed, citing Iran's ability to keep much of its exports flowing under a previous round of sanctions.

The language of the sanctions legislation outlines a 180-day window, meaning it's too soon for Iranian oil flows to be limited in real terms.

China's response to the USA sanctions is unclear.

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Zanganeh said Iran's crude production was about four million barrels per day (bpd), nearly four percent of global output.

One factor that could prevent markets from tightening further is soaring USA oil output.

Iran re-emerged as a major oil exporter in 2016 after worldwide sanctions against it were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Beijing has opposed the USA move and many Chinese companies may continue to buy Iranian crude, analysts say.

Iranian crude oil shipments to Japan and South Korea have fallen by half from their post-sanction peak in March 2017, hitting just over 300,000 bpd in April, according to ship tracking data. Saudi Arabia signaled it could make up lost supplies, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said there's a chance prices may exceed its forecast.

USA pressure to decrease Iranian oil purchases puts South Korea in an especially tricky position while it is trying to convey to North Korea that it is serious about committing to a denuclearization deal.

The Opec has a deal with Russian Federation and non-opec producers to cut supplies that has helped erase a global glut and boosted oil prices to their highest since 2014.

"The impact (of new sanctions) in India will be there, but not so high", said R Ramachandran, head of refineries at state-owned oil firm Bharat Petroleum Corp. This move by the Trump administration is likely to shuffle, rather than strangle, Iranian oil exports, and the United States will be none the better for where that oil ends up.

Although Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was not a surprise, reinstating all United States nuclear-related sanctions was more than expected, said Barclays analysts in a research note.

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