Crude Oil Prices Settle Lower Ahead of Inventory Data

Jul 31, 2018

Crude oil prices settled lower Tuesday as easing expectations for steep losses of Iranian crude offset data expected to show U.S. oil stockpiles fell for the second-straight week.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange crude futures for September delivery fell 1.9% to settle at $68.80 a barrel, while on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent fell 1.75% to trade at $74.23 a barrel. Both benchmarks posted their biggest monthly decline since July 2016.

Oil prices gave up some their gains from a day earlier as oil observers mulled over U.S. President Trump's offer to meet with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at "any time," without restrictions.

The offer from Trump was somewhat surprising as it comes just weeks after a heated exchange between the two presidents, raising questions about whether the United States' was softening its position on Iran. That scaled back investor expectations for a massive loss of Iranian crude from the market.

Iranian officials reportedly rejected the proposal, preferring Trump to first make up for pulling the United States out from the multilateral nuclear deal. The nuclear trade deal had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for regular inspections of the country's nuclear facilities.

President Trump in May said the United States would leave the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, paving the way for sanctions to resume. Trump also said that he would seek to impose the "harshest sanctions," on Iran, which come into effect in November.

Analysts have estimated that up to 1 million barrels a day of Iranian crude could be wiped of the market.

The downside in oil prices was somewhat limited, however, as data due Wednesday are expected to show U.S. crude supplies, already close to 3-year lows, fell by about 2.8 million barrels last week.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, releases its report at 4:30 p.m. ET, followed by the Energy Information Administration's report Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. ET.