New York — Crude futures settled slightly lower Friday, as the recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure took a back seat to global demand growth worries.
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NYMEX front-month crude settled 4 cents lower at $58.09/b, while ICE front-month Brent settled 12 cents lower at $64.28/b.
Crude fell with equities in afternoon trade after trade representatives from China canceled a goodwill trip to US farmers, calling into doubt China's willingness to buy US agricultural goods again.
Also, US President Donald Trump Friday said a trade deal with China would not be needed prior to the 2020 presidential election, according to a CNBC report.
A deal with China would be supportive for crude, as the ongoing US-China trade dispute has slowed global economic growth.
Trump said earlier this month he would delay an increase in tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods by two weeks to October 15.
Crude futures were holding onto day-on-day gains through most of the day Friday, with the fallout from attacks on Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq processing plant and Khurais oil field remaining in focus.
Saudi Arabia has told the market it has sufficient supply, and has rebuffed talk of buying additional crude from its neighbors.
Saudi Arabia and the US have put the blame, at least in part, on Iran. Iran continues to deny any involvement.
The response from Saudi Arabia and the US has so far been focused on increasing sanctions, rather than retaliating militarily, which has helped pull crude prices lower from the initial rally Monday.
NYMEX crude has risen $3.24/b since September 13, the day before the attack, while ICE Brent has risen $4.06/b.
NEW SANCTIONS ON IRAN
The US announced Friday it was sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran and the National Development Fund of Iran in response to the attacks.
"Iran's brazen attack against Saudi Arabia is unacceptable," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "The United States will continue its maximum pressure campaign against Iran's repressive regime, which attempts to achieve its revolutionary agenda through regional aggression while squandering the country's oil proceeds."
Trump told reporters Friday that they were the "highest sanctions ever imposed on a country."
Trump also downplayed speculation that he was considering military action against Iran.
"It's all set to go, but I'm not looking to do that if I can," Trump said.
But traders were cautious heading into the weekend, due to the risk of further attacks and military responses.
"The risk premium will not go completely away," Global Risk Management Senior Oil Risk Manager Michael Poulsen said. "It is hard to rule out anything unlikely, things can escalate quite quickly."
Refined products futures settled lower Friday as refinery operations were returning in the US Gulf Coast following the passing of Tropical Depression Imelda.
NYMEX front-month RBOB settled 2.23 cents lower at $1.6784/gal, while front-month ULSD settled 1.86 cents lower at $1.9863/gal.
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