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Oil prices steady after Iranian exports fall further

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Oil prices held little changed on Tuesday, as more evidence emerged that crude exports from Iran are declining in the run-up to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, while a hurricane moved across the Gulf of Mexico, Reuters reports.

Brent crude was down 7 cents at $83.84 a barrel by 0020 GMT. On Monday, Brent fell to a low of $82.66, but mostly recovered as investors bet China’s economic stimulus would boost crude demand. Brent hit a four-year high of $86.74 last week.

U.S. crude was down by 1 cent at $74.28 a barrel, having fallen as low as $73.07 in the previous session to close the day just 5 cents lower.

Iran’s crude exports fell further in the first week of October, according to tanker data and an industry source, taking a major hit from U.S. sanctions and throwing a challenge to other OPEC oil producers as they seek to cover the shortfall.

The Islamic Republic exported 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude in that seven-day period, Refinitiv Eikon data showed. An industry source who also tracks exports said October shipments were so far below 1 million bpd.

That’s down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the U.S. from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions. The figure also marks a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.

Last week, Saudi Arabia announced plans to lift crude output next month to 10.7 million bpd, a record.

Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on Monday called a Saudi claim that the kingdom could replace Iran’s crude exports “nonsense.”

“Iran’s oil cannot be replaced by Saudi Arabia nor any other country,” Zanganeh said, according to his ministry’s website.

Gulf of Mexico oil companies shut down 19 percent of oil production as Hurricane Michael moved toward eastern Gulf states including Florida.

If current forecasts prove accurate, the hurricane would largely miss major producing assets in the Gulf, analysts said, but any change of track could widen the impact.

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