Saudi Arabia’s crude oil stockpiles fell in March for the fifth month in a row reaching the lowest level in 18 months as the kingdom kept shipping crude to meet customer demand while keeping a lid on production. Stockpiles dropped to 296.7 million barrels in March from 305.6 million barrels in February, according to data published on the website of the Riyadh-based Joint Organisations Data Initiative. Stockpiles peaked at 329.4 million barrels in October and have been in decline since then, the data showed.
Oil prices fell on Friday and were set for a second straight week of decline after Libyan ports reopened and on the view that Iran might still export some crude despite U.S. sanctions.
Brent crude LCOc1 was down 36 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $74.09 per barrel by 1125 GMT, having fallen earlier by 1.3 percent. It was heading for a weekly fall of around 4 percent.
U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 lost 12 cents to $70.22 and was also set for a weekly decline of around 4 percent.
Oil approached $80 in late June and early July due to Libyan and Venezuelan supply disruptions and fears the United States would press all buyers of Iranian oil to cut imports to zero from November.
But prices weakened in recent days as OPEC member Libya reopened its ports in the east and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would consider granting waivers to some of Iran’s crude buyers.
Prices also slid amid broader market fears that a U.S.-China trade dispute could hit global economic growth.
“While the oil market could not escape the mounting trade tensions and souring sentiment in financial markets, the sell-off was more about signs of rising supplies,” Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke said.
“If Iran was blocked from the market, we believe oil prices would rise toward $90 per barrel, which would cause significant fuel inflation, weigh on consumer and business sentiment and eventually hurt the economy,” he added.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Thursday that the world was short of spare supply capacity and hence any new disruption could further elevate oil prices.