Oil prices inch up as United States crude stocks drop, Iran sanctions weigh

US President Donald Trump said various trade talks would take time signalling a major breakthrough in US-China trade talks was unlikely

Of course, this assessment on Iran's crude oil exports for August could prove to be premature, as data is for the first half of this month only.

According to BNP Paribas' London head of commodity markets strategy, Harry Tchilinguirian, considering the amount of oil lost from Iranian exports, it would need increases in production from other suppliers like Saudi Arabia to stabilize the oil market.

Still, a trade standoff between the United States and China that could imperil global economic growth and weaken energy demand continues to weigh on crude prices after negotiations in Washington this week failed to progress.

The prospect of a drop in oil exports from Iran, the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, in response to new USA sanctions is also supporting the market.

Iran is the third-biggest producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the nation exports around 2 million barrels per day of crude, equivalent to around 2 percent of global consumption.

Oil prices rose 3%, with Brent crude futures hitting a three-week high.

US crude oil imports averaged 7.51 million barrels per day last week which was 1.49 million barrels per day lower than the levels of the previous week. The contract had already gone up by $0.52 to trade at $66.43 per barrel on Monday this week.

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Both oil benchmarks saw low liquidity during early trading on Friday.

West Texas Intermediate settled down 3 cents at $67.83, and Brent settled down 5 cents at $74.73 per barrel - modest declines, but notable considering both contracts had climbed by over $2 per barrel 24 hours earlier after the USA government reported a bigger-than-anticipated drop in crude stockpiles, which played into traders' fears that the market may be tightening.

The sufficient supply of West African crude cargoes has been limited by a slowdown in oil demand from Asia, having little to no effect on global oil prices.

USA crude inventories fell 5.8-million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, more than the 1.5-million-barrel draw forecast by analysts polled by Reuters.

Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub dropped by 808,000 barrels, the API said. Workers at Total SA's North Sea oil and gas fields will go ahead with scheduled strikes after talks broke down.

Meanwhile, a Chinese trade delegation is in Washington to discuss trade disputes with the United States side.

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