Oil prices edge up after Saudi output dips, US drilling stalls

12 2017 shows a Panamanian tanker docking at the platform of an Iranian oil export facility in the Persian Gulf

Oil prices rose on Monday after Saudi crude production registered a surprising dip in July and as American shale drilling appeared to plateau.

While the USA failed to persuade Beijing to stop importing Iranian oil, the Chinese government did say it would not increase the imports, according to Bloomberg, which cited two anonymous officials "familiar with the negotiations".

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 37c, or 0.5%, at $68.86 barrel.

Markets also anticipated an announcement from Washington later on Monday on renewed USA sanctions against major oil exporter Iran.

Russian Federation and OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have increased production to help to compensate for an anticipated shortfall in Iranian crude supplies once planned USA sanctions take effect in November.

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Repeating the pattern of past weeks, crude prices on Friday ended the week down by 0.4 percent for West Texas Intermediate and 1.5 percent for Brent, this time in reaction to China state oil major Sinopec cutting its purchases of USA product due to the trade spat between both countries.

China has however agreed it will not increase oil imports from Iran, in a move which would directly challenge the U.S. blockade.

In Saudi Arabia, 10.29 million barrels per day were produced by the Middle East's largest power, a surprising decline of nearly 200,000 bpd, and the decline is hitting oil markets twice as hard as the decline in production amounts is announced amidst a supposed period of production increases by OPEC. The kingdom told the cartel it produced 10.489 million in June.

When pressed by CNBC to answer the questions she was raising, Croft replied, "I think this market will tighten at the end of this year", and added that Venezuelan production continues to fall and will be a contributing factor.

A complete halt to Iranian supplies looks unlikely, with Bloomberg reporting China, Iran's biggest customer, has rejected a USA request to cut imports from the OPEC member.

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Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended oil shipments there on July 26 after attacks on two big oil tankers by Houthis.

Currently China is the world's top buyer of crude oil, including from Iran, making Chinese refusal to cooperate a major challenge to the US.

The strain between China and the US derive from a similar attack by Trump, who levied a global tariff on steel and aluminum imports in March.

Fears that Chinese demand could taper fueled the pullback Friday after state oil major Sinopec cut its purchases of USA crude.

Earlier this year, Unipec had planned to trade up to 300,000 bpd of US crude oil by the end of 2018, which would have been triple the volume of USA crude oil that it traded last year, according to OilPrice.com. "Iran was hoping to sell more than 500,000 [barrels per day] of oil to India in [fiscal year] 2018/2019", the outlet wrote, citing a February statement by Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh.

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