Oil prices mixed as economic concerns weigh, Iran sanctions loom

Oil prices were mixed on Monday, weighed down by concerns over slowing economic growth but supported by the expected impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran, which will start targeting the petroleum industry from November.

Brent crude futures, which act as a benchmark for international oil prices, were at $71.80 per barrel at 0706 GMT, close to their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 6 cents at $65.85 per barrel.

Traders said U.S. sanctions against Iran were supporting prices. The U.S. government has introduced financial sanctions against Iran which, from November, will also target the country’s petroleum sector.

Iran produced around 3.65 million barrels per day of crude in July, according to a Reuters survey, making it the third biggest producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Despite this, analysts said oil markets were held back by concerns of a slowdown in economic growth because of the U.S.-Chinese trade tensions, and because of weakness in many emerging economies.

China and the United States will hold trade talks this month, the two governments said late last week, in a bid to resolve an escalating tariff war that threatens to engulf all trade between the world’s two largest economies.

Still, White House Economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned Beijing not to underestimate President Donald Trump’s resolve in what Kudlow called a “battle to eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers and quotas, to stop the theft of intellectual property and to stop the forced transfer of technology”.

Shanghai crude futures for December delivery, China’s most actively traded contract, fell 3.4 percent to 488.2 yuan ($71.02) per barrel.

“Disappointing industrial data out of China along with concerns over emerging market economies centred on Turkey weighed on commodities,” Edward Bell of Emirates NBD bank said in a note on Sunday.

In the United States, U.S. energy companies last week kept the oil rig count unchanged at 869, according to the Baker Hughes energy services firm.

“The recent softening in benchmark prices should temper the pace of growth in U.S. exploration and production activity, and lead to slower overall output growth,” Bell said.