(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Oil rebounded to $73 a barrel on Wednesday after falling to its lowest since August, supported by a report that Russia and Saudi Arabia are discussing oil output cuts in 2019.
Oil prices hit $71.18 on Tuesday, its lowest since August 16, after the US granted sanctions exemptions to top buyers of Iranian oil, but experts warned that it could touch $100 if supply crunch worsens.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose $1.04 to $73.17 a barrel by 1057GMT on Wednesday. US crude rose 68 cents to $62.89.
An average price of $80 a barrel for this quarter is realistic, with spikes to $90 or even $100 possible if further disruptions worsen a supply crunch amid rising consumption, Citi's Global Head of Commodities Research Ed Morse said.
The sanctions exemptions from the US, although widely expected, lifted supply concerns and turned the market's focus to worries that an economic slowdown may curb fuel demand.
Citigroup's analyst said oil prices are likely to be "biased to the upside" for the rest of the year as demand from refineries rises in November and December.
The outlook comes as the Opec and its allies send mixed supply signals to the market, with Russia suggesting it could push output to a record and an Opec committee signalling the group could cap supply again in 2019. Central to the uncertainty is Iran, where the US imposed sanctions this week while granting waivers to eight buyers of its crude. Experts expect Iran's crude exports would fall to little more than one million barrels per day (bpd) in November, roughly a third of their mid-2018 peak. But traders and analysts say that figure could rise from December as importers use their waivers.
Washington gave 180-day exemptions to eight importers - China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey. This group takes as much as three-quarters of Iran's seaborne oil exports, trade data shows, meaning Iran will still be allowed to export some oil for now.
Supply disruptions can also be expected elsewhere, including in Opec nations Nigeria, Libya and Venezuela. In Nigeria, where elections are coming up, "there are always disruptions and they average about half a million barrels a day," Morse said.
However, Citigroup sees the demand picture changing as potentially slower economic growth weighs on energy use by next year. "Longer term, there are lots of road blocks to demand. I think demand at stake is maybe 500,000 barrels a day lower next year than this year," said Morse.
Concerns about demand continue amid escalating trade dispute between the US and China as currency weakness continues to pressure economies in Asia, including India and Indonesia.
"The market continues to shift from worrying about tightening supplies to acknowledging upside supply risks and weakening demand growth," analysts at JBC Energy wrote in a report.-
Issac John Associate Business Editor of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.