Oil prices were set for a second straight week of decline on Friday after Libyan ports reopened and on the view that Iran might still export some crude despite U.S. sanctions.
Brent crude LCOc1 was down 10 cents at $74.35 per barrel by 1308 GMT, having fallen earlier by 1.3 percent. It was heading for a weekly fall of around 3 percent.
U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 was up 10 cents at $70.43, and was on course for a weekly decline of around 4 percent.
Oil approached $80 in late June and early July due to Libyan and Venezuelan supply disruptions and fears the United States would press all buyers of Iranian oil to cut imports to zero from November.
But prices weakened in recent days as OPEC member Libya reopened its ports in the east and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would consider granting waivers to some of Iran’s crude buyers.
Prices also slid amid broader market fears that a U.S.-China trade dispute could hit global economic growth.
“While the oil market could not escape the mounting trade tensions and souring sentiment in financial markets, the sell-off was more about signs of rising supplies,” Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke said.
“If Iran was blocked from the market, we believe oil prices would rise toward $90 per barrel, which would cause significant fuel inflation, weigh on consumer and business sentiment and eventually hurt the economy,” he added.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Thursday that the world was short of spare supply capacity and hence any new disruption could further elevate oil prices. [IEA/M]
“Underpinning this morning’s bout of malaise are downbeat oil demand figures from China. The world’s biggest importer of crude curbed its purchases last month to a 2018 low,” said Stephen Brennock from PVM brokerage.