An Iranian crude oil supertanker anchored off Singapore. Picture: REUTERS
An Iranian crude oil supertanker anchored off Singapore. Picture: REUTERS

Singapore — Oil prices fell on Wednesday amid signs that global markets remain adequately supplied despite a jump to 2019 highs this week on Washington’s push for tighter sanctions against Iran.

Brent crude futures were at $74.13 per barrel at 4.56am GMT, down 38 cents, or 0.5%, from their last close.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $65.93 per barrel, down 37 cents, or 0.6%, from their previous settlement.

Crude oil prices for spot delivery rose to 2019 highs earlier in the week after the US said on Monday it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action from Washington.

The spot price surge has put the Brent forward curve into steep backwardation, in which prices for later delivery are cheaper than for prompt dispatch.

Stephen Schork, of the Schork Report energy newsletter, said the shift to backwardation in the past four months was “a sign that the market’s underlying fundamentals have shifted away from a spot market that is well supplied to a market where demand is beginning to overtake supply.”

US sanctions against oil exporter Iran were introduced in November 2018, but Washington allowed its largest buyers limited imports of crude for another half-year as an adjustment period.

With Iranian oil exports likely declining sharply from May as most countries bow to US pressure, global crude markets are expected to tighten in the short term, Goldman Sachs and Barclays bank said this week.

Despite the tight spot market, analysts said global oil markets remained adequately supplied thanks to ample spare capacity from the Middle East-dominated Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), Russia and also the US.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a watchdog for oil-consuming countries, said in a statement on Tuesday that markets are “adequately supplied” and that “global spare production capacity remains at comfortable levels”.

The biggest source of new oil supply comes from the US, where crude oil production has already risen by more than 2-million barrels per day (bpd) since early 2018 to a record of more than 12-million bpd early in 2019, making the US the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“Total oil supplies from the United States are expected to grow by 1.6-million bpd this year,” the IEA said.

Commercial inventories in the US are also high.

US crude oil inventories rose by 6.9-million barrels in the week to April 19 to 459.6-million, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday.