Oil prices head higher as Saudi Arabia lifts prices, China crude imports climb

Oil prices rose to three-week highs as Saudi Arabia eased supplies to Asia and as Chinese imports showed the largest gain in eight months.

Brent crude was last up 0.7% at $73.39 a barrel in London at 5:00am ET, while US light crude was 0.4% higher at $67.98 a barrel.

Riyadh’s commitment to stabilise the market has partly offset tensions over Iran. Iranian supply has been hit in the four weeks to May, as US President Donald Trump reinstates sanctions and reimposes some measures lifted under an international deal with Tehran.

Saudi Arabia has said it is willing to make up for lost Iranian supplies.

Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s crown prince, last week said Riyadh had cut some shipments of crude to Asia but gave no figures.

Analysts at analysts at Centre for Global Energy Studies said this move should help stabilize oil prices.

“However, policy risks and geopolitical volatility still pose challenges, which means that we may continue to see an unstable oil market,” they said.

Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and their allies will meet next month in Russia to try to find a way to end the dispute between Iran and the US over Iran’s disputed nuclear activities.

Any decision to escalate could lead to new, higher supply disruptions in key oil-producing countries such as Venezuela and Iraq.

Meanwhile, China’s imports of crude oil jumped nearly 19% in May from the same month last year to 7.9 million tonnes, or 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd), the General Administration of Customs of China said.

This is the second highest level of monthly imports.

After three months of continuous year-on-year declines, crude oil imports in January-May jumped 21.9% to 65.8 million tones.

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