Oil prices gain with record China crude imports

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U.S. President Donald Trump has said he had called Saudi Arabia and OPEC and told them to lower oil prices, but he did not say whom he spoke to or when the conversations took place. Brent crude gained 36 cents to $70.26 a barrel.

Crude inventories fell by 4 million barrels in the week to May 3, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 1.2 million barrels.

US officials today say they do not anticipate any significant decrease in the supply of petroleum given production increases by other countries, including the USA itself and Saudi Arabia.

Offer prices for relatively heavy Angolan grades were expected to remain high and even increase given high demand and absence of comparable oil grades due to US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

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Oil prices have fallen this week due to announcements from Washington that the United States would further raise tariffs on Chinese goods on Friday.

China's crude imports in April hit a record for the month of 10.64 million barrels per day (bpd), customs data showed on Wednesday.

Olivier Jakob, managing director of Petromatrix, said, "There is no true sign of weakness in the physical market; you have lower exports from Venezuela, you've got sanctions from Iran, Libya which is still a risk".

"The focus now will be on the two days of talks in Washington scheduled to take place between USA and Chinese officials", said Jasper Lawler, Head of Research at futures brokerage London Capital Group.

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U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures settled 13 cents higher, at $61.94 per barrel.

Iran had always been a major crude supplier for South Korea, with Asia's fourth biggest oil consumer importing around 12 million barrels/month on average from the Persian Gulf producer over the past decade, accounting for about 10% of Seoul's total refinery feedstock imports. U.S. gold futures also gained 0,2 percent to $1,283.20 an ounce.

Efforts by the Trump administration to impose political and economic isolation on Tehran began with last year's United States withdrawal from the nuclear deal it and other world powers negotiated with Iran in 2015.

"The US government may possibly be preparing to put sanctions on Iran's petrochemical products because they know well that these products are one of the most important exports of Iran and bring significant foreign exchange to the country", he added.

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