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"We have kept buying USA crude since we made our first purchase of it, nearly 2 million barrels every month because we found the economics of USA crude are good", said Kim Woo-kyung, a spokeswoman at SK Innovation, which owns SK Energy. E&P reports in its article Oil Prices Build As Iraq, US-Iran Tension Raises Risks that after months of rangebound trading, during which OPEC-led supply cuts supported crude but rising USA output capped markets, prices have made significant gains this month.

Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate crude rose by 19 cents to Dollars 52.07 while global benchmark Brent was up 37 cents at USD 58.25 a barrel.

Jeff Brown, president of consultancy Facts Global Energy (FGE), said at the Reuters Global Commodities Summit last week that one potential upside for oil prices would be the USA imposing fresh sanctions on Iran. "If there [were new sanctions], we expect that several hundred thousand barrels of Iranian exports would be immediately at risk", Goldman said.

"Everyone is looking to see if the high level of (U.S.) crude oil exports will pull down inventories again", Kilduff said.

After the news of the Iraqi forces' engagement in Kirkuk with Kurdish forces on October 16, 2017, the Brent-WTI spread expanded $0.28. The fighting in one of Iraq's main oil-producing areas helped to restore a risk premium on oil prices, though officials said that oil fields in the region were operating normally. Kurdistan, which voted almost unanimously to become an independent state in a controversial referendum late last month, exports nearly 600,000 barrels of oil a day.

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Along with these political developments, oil prices are also supported from the ongoing supply cuts to OPEC. It last stood at $7,110.5.

The upbeat forecast for oil demand growth, however, was offset by a rise in OPEC production by 90,000 barrels a day, fueling concerns that OPEC compliance with the deal to curb output is starting to wane.

Brent oil prices retreated from three-week highs on Wednesday, after a surprising drop in US refining rates and an unexpected gasoline and diesel stock build signaled lower demand in the world's top oil consumer.

"These issues (Iraq and Iran) remind us oil and geopolitics are very much inter-linked and it will remain so... oil security remains a critical issue for all the countries", Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency said in a statement.

"We see Brent averaging $54 this quarter and $52.50 per barrel in 1H18, compared with our previous forecasts of $50 and $49.50 per barrel respectively", it said.


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