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On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading up 0.3% at $69.16 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the United States benchmark for the price of oil, was down 1.51 per cent to $67.72 per barrel.

The US, now the world's second-largest producer (tied with Saudi Arabia), also produces around 11m bpd according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. The return of sanctions on Iran was one of the reasons why the experts raised again-for a tenth consecutive month-their oil price forecasts for WTI Crude and Brent Crude prices, which are now expected to average $67.32 a barrel and $72.87 a barrel this year, respectively.

Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have increased production, as agreed at a meeting in June, to help to compensate for an anticipated shortfall in Iranian crude supplies once U.S. sanctions come into force later this year.

However, low stocks were still providing a floor as even with last week's rise, overall USA crude inventories are below the 5-year average of around 420 million barrels.

The contract declined $2.47 in the previous two sessions.

Futures fell for the third day in NY, losing as much as 1.1 per cent to hit their lowest level since June 22, but USA government's data showed a surprise gain in nationwide stockpiles on Wednesday.

USA crude oil refinery inputs averaged 17.48 million barrels per day during last week, which was 195,000 barrels per day higher than the previous week's average.

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Although many traders still expect the light, sweet crude market to tighten toward the end of the year, investors increasingly seem less convinced.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and partners including Russian Federation had agreed in late 2016 to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day to rebalance supply and demand.

Saudi Arabia's output rose by 230,000 barrels a day in July to 10.65 million barrels per day. That's equivalent to about 11.21 million barrels a day. Although the sanctions don't officially take effect until November, Iran is already seeing customers flee as the USA imposes penalties on buyers after Trump quit a nuclear accord with the country.

Oil prices are also feeling the effects of tensions over global trade, which could cause economic growth to slow.

Trump has turned up pressure on China for trade concessions by proposing a higher 25% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese imports and China has said it will retaliate.

Despite the decline, China "continues to hold the mantle as the leading Asian destination for US crude", said the firm's commodity research director, Matt Smith.

Fears that Chinese demand could taper fueled the pullback on Friday after state oil major Sinopec cut its purchases of US crude.


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