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Crude oil futures stable to higher on looming supply concerns

Singapore — Crude oil futures were stable to higher in mid-morning trade in Asia Friday as market participants continued to focus on the impact of the looming loss of crude barrels due to the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran.

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At 11:15 am Singapore time (0315 GMT), ICE November Brent crude futures were unchanged from Wednesday's settle at $81.72/b, while the NYMEX November light sweet crude contract was 14 cents/b (0.19%) higher at $72.26/b.

"Further concerns over Iranian oil supplies continue to lift oil prices," OCBC commodity economist Barnabas Gan said.

South Korea's crude oil imports from Iran tumbled in August ahead of the November deadline for US sanctions on Tehran, industry officials said. August shipments of 2 million barrels was the lowest since December 2015, when South Korea received 1.78 million barrels from Iran during earlier US-led sanctions on Tehran.

The US has pressed Iran's oil customers, including South Korea, to eliminate imports by November 4.

"Crude oil prices rose towards $82/b as focus moved back to the tighter supply in the absence of Iranian oil. Now the market estimates supply losses due to Iran sanctions at 1.5 million b/d, which is unlikely to be offset by other suppliers," ANZ analysts said in a note Friday.

Talk of oil prices hitting $100/b by year end has also lifted oil prices this week.

"Are we looking [for oil prices] to average $100 next year? No. Are there circumstances in Q4 that could so scare the market that it could rampage temporarily up to very high levels above $90? We're at $82 already -- $82 to $100 is not very far. It's a world where given the right sequence of events, it's not impossible," Standard Chartered bank's head of commodities research Paul Horsnell told S&P Global Platts on the sidelines of an event in London.

Analysts were awaiting the release of US shale rig data by Baker Hughes later Friday for further cues.

As of 0315 GMT, the US dollar index was down 0.01% at 95.58.

--Avantika Ramesh,

--Edited by Wendy Wells,