Oil prices edge up, US-China trade war in focus

Crude Oil

This comes even as Trump demands all United States allies cut Iran oil exports to zero by November 4 following sanctions aimed at shutting the country out of oil markets.

Oil prices initially fell on Friday, along with Asian stock markets.

If Beijing also imposes tariffs on USA crude, it could put downward pressure on the price of benchmark U.S. crude, the West Texas Intermediate, and may weaken its spread to Brent oil, the global market standard.

USA crude futures added 8 cents, or 0.1 per cent, to.88 after trading slightly lower earlier in the morning.

"The Chinese have to do the tit-for-tat, they have to retaliate", said John Driscoll, director of consultancy JTD Energy, adding that cutting USA crude imports was a means "of retaliating (against) the U.S.in a very substantial way".

US West Texas Intermediate and worldwide bench-mark Brent crude oil futures are trading mixed in limited action.

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"If China imposes tariffs, their refineries won't buy US crude since it would cost more", Sandy Fielden, director of research for commodities and energy at Morningstar Inc., said by telephone.

Oil prices steadied on Monday as an increase in US drilling, likely to lead to higher shale production, balanced evidence of tightening supply.

Benchmark Brent LCOc1 was up 40 cents at $77.51 a barrel by 0850 GMT.

South Korea has been importing Iranian crude at a daily rate of some 296,000 bpd since late March (the start of the Iranian year) and is one of several importers that are trying to win waivers for Iranian crude shipments from Washington.

He added his refinery had canceled USA crude orders and would switch to Middle East or West African supplies instead.

The major story remains the looming supply shortages due to USA sanctions against Iran. While as much as 2.3 million barrels a day of crude from the Persian Gulf state at risk per Trump's sanctions, the White House has yet to get responses from China, while India or Turkey have already hinted they would defy Trump and keep importing Iranian oil.

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In an early sign of future times, an executive from China's Dongming Petrochemical Group, an independent refiner from Shandong province, said his refinery had already cancelled USA crude orders.

It estimated that once USA sanctions are fully implemented, some 1.7 to 2 million bpd of crude and condensate would be taken out of the market.

United States investment bank Jefferies said on Friday it expected a decline in Iranian exports "well in excess" of 1-million barrels a day due to the U.S. sanctions.

Iranian OPEC Governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili told Reuters that Trump "should have expected" when blocking Iran's access to the global markets that it would end up as "hostage (to) Saudi Arabia and Russia", who he said had little vested interest in bringing down prices.

"It is possible the kingdom could lift production by another 1.3 million-1.4 million bpd beyond anything it has ever produced before but at the moment there is no way of knowing for certain", Reuters added.

Although Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation have both said they would raise output to make up for these disruptions, FGE said "there simply is not enough capacity to make up for Iran's crude losses, plus Venezuela and Libya", and warned of the possibility of oil prices rising to $100 per barrel.

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