Oil at five-week low as supply worries compound trade war threat

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Crude oil prices turned sharply lower ahead of the start of trading on Wednesday in NY after a surprise build in crude oil inventories in the United States. Crude oil production is now expected to average 11.8 million bpd in 2019.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent at $73.32 a barrel by 0052 GMT, after rising 1.5 percent on Thursday.

Oil prices fell about 2 percent on Wednesday as a surprise increase in USA crude stockpiles fed concerns about global oversupply, while investors anxious that trade tensions could hit energy demand. "Yet, we remain much more concerned about the ongoing USA sanctions on Iran", analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research note published last week.

Stocks at the key Cushing storage hub in Oklahoma fell by 1.3-million barrels, the lowest level since October 2014, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were up 32 cents at $72.71 a barrel by 10:37 a.m. EDT (1437 GMT), while USA crude CLc1 futures rose 60 cents to $68.26 a barrel.

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"Oil is holding up reasonably well ..."

EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) from July forecasts that US crude oil production will average 10.8 million bpd this year, up from 9.4 million bpd in 2017.

Analysts said the outlook beyond the short-term was turning bearish.

The world's biggest energy exporter raised production last month to 11.215 million barrels a day, a jump of 148,000 barrels from a month earlier and just below the post-Soviet record set in October 2016, according to government data emailed Thursday. "A lot of this is the risk premium priced in for Iran and when do we start seeing an impact on supply there", ING commodities strategist Warren Patterson said.

"Unipec saying they won't buy US crude and China saying they won't comply with Iran sanctions are bearish", Jakob from Petromatrix said.

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The United States, China and India have previously urged oil producers to release more supply to prevent an oil deficit that could undermine global economic growth.

"There are a lot of escalation points that could occur very quickly and that worries me", Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer at Ayers Alliance in Sydney, said.

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an worldwide nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran has angered Tehran.

Russian oil production last month was on average above the level Moscow promised following the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC meeting in June, energy minister Alexander Novak indicated on Wednesday. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a decline of 2.8 million barrels.

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