Oil slips below $77, weighed down by Saudi output boost, trade tensions

Iran's OPEC governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili

At their meeting in Vienna last month, OPEC countries and key ally Russian Federation said they will raise production by a million barrels per day, but analysts are concerned it may not be enough for oil prices to spiral out of control, at least until new US shale production comes on stream. Trump points out the USA defends OPEC members for a "very little" amount of money.

"This must be a two way street", he wrote, adding in block capitals, "REDUCE PRICING NOW!"

Top exporter Saudi Arabia told OPEC it had raised oil output by nearly 500,000 barrels per day last month, OPEC sources said, a sign Riyadh wants to make up for shortages elsewhere and dampen prices.

Oil prices fell on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump sent a strident tweet demanding that OPEC cut prices for crude. "The responsibility of paying unnecessary prices for oil by all consumers of the whole world, especially in US gas stations, is exclusively upon your (Trump's) shoulders and the price of over $100 per barrel is yet to come", Kazempour Ardebili said.

In response, Ardebili warned, "Your tweets have driven the prices up by at least $10 per barrel. Please stop it; otherwise it will go even higher".

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"OPEC has not defined oil prices for the past 30 years, it's a financial market". For the same period, analysts expected crude inventories to decrease by about 4.5 million barrels.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 45 cents, or 0.6%, at $73.69 per barrel.

Trump's OPEC tweets come as gasoline prices are more than 60 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.

While trade concerns may be partly responsible for the decline, the industry was surprised to learn this week that oil stockpiles in the US are getting larger, not smaller. Meanwhile, stopping Iranian oil sales would take 2.4 million barrels a day off world markets.

Antoine Halff, formerly a chief oil market analyst at the International Energy Agency and now senior fellow at Columbia University, said that Trump made three errors in his tweet: OPEC can influence market prices but is not a monopoly.

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The price for Brent crude oil was just above $78 per barrel as of 8:16 a.m. EDT, up from the June 28 close of $77.85. It's telling that this is his third provocation on oil prices since April.

Currently, prices are being propped up by supply disruptions in Canada, Libya and Venezuela as well as looming sanctions against Iran, which could remove as much as 3.8 million barrels per day of crude oil from the market. One, led by Iran, which wants higher prices and deeper cuts, and the two largest producers, Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation, who support a more diplomatic position.

Besides, the USA military reaffirmed on Jul.04 its promise to help keep oil tanker waterways in the Persian Gulf open, after Iran hinted that it might try to block the oil exports if the US continues actions to stop importing Iranian oil.

U.S. crude stockpiles rose 1.3 million barrels last week, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Besides, for the third week in a row, United States production stagnated at 10.9 million bpd - close to the 11 million bpd production that many had forecast for the year. The Saudis have increased oil production, following an OPEC meeting last month, but it hasn't been enough to overcome the effects of reduced supplies from other producers.

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