Oil steadies as Saudi crude exports fall

Oil prices steadied on Monday after data showing a sharp drop in Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports balanced signs of rising refined products stocks.

Brent crude for September was 5 cents up at $57.15 a barrel by 0825 GMT. The benchmark fell nearly 3 percent last week and is down more than 10 percent so far this month.

U.S. crude futures for August, also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), were up 5 cents at $50.94 a barrel. The August contract expires on Tuesday.

Oil prices have fallen for three weeks in a row on expectations of increased exports from Iran following a deal to ease sanctions against the OPEC producer.

Investors are worried that a big oversupply of crude in many markets, that has been filling inventories towards record levels, will be exacerbated by more oil from Iran.

But not all industry data are bearish.

Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports fell in May to their lowest since December, with official data showing daily shipments stood at 6.935 million barrels a day (bpd) compared with 7.737 million bpd in April, despite record high output of over 10 million bpd as the Kingdom.

As refineries around the world continue to operate at near maximum levels to benefit from strong profit margins, there are signs a glut in the crude oil market may be shifting to refined products.

“We are seeing the crude surplus moving into the oil products with elevated inventories in Europe for gasoline, naphtha and especially gasoil,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst at SEB in Oslo.

Strong increases in refinery operations in recent months are set to slow in the second half of this year, Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy said:

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