KSA: Saudi Arabia 'ready to replace Iranian oil after end of waivers'

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Iran's economy is expected to slide deeper into recession this year and inflation is set to surge to almost 40 per cent or more as Tehran struggles to keep its economy afloat in the wake of tighter U.S. sanctions and Washington's goal of curtailing the country's oil exports to zero, a senior International Monetary Fund official said.

But prices came under downward pressure late last week after US President Donald Trump openly pressured Opec and its de-facto leader Saudi Arabia to raise output to meet the supply shortfall caused by the tightening Iran sanctions. Saudi Arabia expects its budget deficit to narrow to 4.2 percent of gross domestic product this year from 4.6 percent in 2018, a target economists say hinges on higher oil prices.

Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran's oil exports in November following the USA withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear accord.

This month Iraq's SOMO sold 2 million barrels of Basra Heavy crude to China's Unipec at a premium of over $2 a barrel to its official selling price (OSP), the highest in months, sources said.

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Many observers feared the protests could lead to escalating violence and further disruptions to crude supply, though the OPEC-member nation's oil-producing regions are far afield of the capital of Caracas.

Analysts and market participants have downplayed the comments since details were unclear.

Brent for June settlement climbed 24 cents to $72.39 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange after earlier falling as much as 1.5 percent.

Saudi oil production until the end of May would be below the level set in the global deal: "significantly less" than 10 million bpd, with exports below 7 million bpd next month, Falih said.

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An upward swing in fuel prices across India is likely as the nation will end its import of Iranian crude from tomorrow. Zanganeh also said Washington's stated aim to bring Iran's oil exports "to zero" was "an illusion".

Iran should work to eliminate the gap that now exists between the market exchange rate and the official exchange rate, said Azour.

"Together with political tensions in Libya and chaos in Venezuela this will make the tight situation on the supply side of the oil market even tighter".

The other recipients-Greece, Italy and Taiwan-have already ended imports of Iranian oil.

The current stand-off between buyers and sellers comes down partly to uncertainty over just how much Iranian crude may still flow, crucially to top consumer China, after the May 1 deadline the USA has imposed for importers to halt purchases.

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Russia's president Vladimir Putin hopes Saudi Arabia does not begin to reverse the production cuts agreed in December to fill the gap of Iranian oil on global markets.

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