Global oil prices extended declines Wednesday as Iran sought the support of its European allies to curb sanctions on the sale of its crude and threatened to ramp up its nuclear program as tensions with Washington continue to escalate.
Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, told state television that his administration would start enriching uranium within 60 days if European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) treaty -- which President Trump walked away from this time last year -- didn't press Washington to revoke the sanctions it has placed on the sale of Iranian crude. He also said he would stop selling excess enriched uranium, a move that would add to the country's closely-monitored stockpiles.
"If the five countries came to the negotiating table and we reached an agreement, and if they could protect our interests in the oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one," Rouhani said. "The Iranian people and the world should know that today is not the end of the JCPOA; these are actions in line with the JCPOA."
Brent crude contracts for July delivery, the global benchmark for oil prices, were marked 36 cents lower from their Tuesday close in New York and changing hands at $69.52 per barrel, reversing earlier gains following data from China showing record crude imports over the month of April.
WTI contracts for June delivery were seen 20 cents lower at $61.19 per barrel, again reversing gains and following data from the Energy Information Administration yesterday that forecast domestic production rates would rise to 12.3 million barrels per day this year as world demand eases on trade and growth concerns.
Trump revoked waivers that allowed eight different countries -- including China and Japan -- to purchase Iranian crude despite U.S. sanctions. The move triggered stockpiling of exports from Tehran, with China importing a record 10.64 million barrels last month, according to official customs data, despite consistent signals of slowing growth and weakening demand in the world's second-largest economy.
Trump has since called on OPEC members to make up for the shortfall in global supply that would result from the sanctions, although key producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have been reluctant to heed the President's message.
"Oil prices are not having much fun in the current risk environment either which shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering global growth fears and their impact on risk are intrinsically linked to future oil demand," said Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst at Singapore-based brokerage firm Oanda. "It's one of the often more overlooked drivers of oil prices but the correlation is clear." Oil has been on a slide since Trump claimed to have called OPEC regarding oil prices, which came at a time when the market was already looking rather stretched to the upside."
"We've seen a bit of a corrective move since then - just shy of 10% - but that may increase. We're currently trading at a very interesting level - around $69-70 in Brent and $60-61 in WTI - a break of which could signal more pain to come," he added. "Given the recent shift in risk appetite, this is perfectly feasible."