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Crude oil stabilizes after early losses despite ongoing US-Saudi dispute; NYMEX WTI down to $71.58/b, ICE Brent $80.64/b

New York — Crude oil futures trimmed early losses to trade at around flat in late-morning US trading as the market continued to stabilize after last week's selloff.

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NYMEX November WTI was down 20 cents at $71.58/b and ICE December Brent was 14 cents lower at $80.64/b.

"The market is stabilizing, we are seeing a bit of balance showing up between concerns of reduced global demand because of the potential for a weaker economy underpinned by trade issues affecting growth, balancing out tighter supplies and impact of US sanctions on Iran," Tradition Energy analyst Gene McGillian said.

Iranian oil exports fell to their lowest in at least two and a half years in September to 1.7 million b/d, from 1.92 million b/d in August, according to S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow, though some shipments not visible through vessel-tracking data are suspected to be taking place.

But Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid al-Falih said Monday that the Kingdom would raise its crude production next month from around 10.7 million b/d now.

Crude futures fell in Tuesday's Asian and European trading, but a possible flare up in a US-Saudi Arabia diplomatic dispute offered some support during US trading.

Concerns that a diplomatic row between the US and Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi ebbed with the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh late Monday. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Media reports on Tuesday suggested that the Saudis, who had previously strongly denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, were preparing to say the journalist was inadvertently killed during an interrogation.

Saudi Arabia's acceptance of at least partial blame might allow all parties to back down from the current levels of brinkmanship. On Sunday Saudi Arabia warned of "its influential and vital role in the global economy" after US President Donald Trump said the kingdom could face severe consequences in response to Khashoggi's disappearance.

But crude futures found support on Tuesday after strong statements from US Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's top supporters in Congress, underscored the impasse. Graham said he would "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia," a move that would have significant impact on the oil market unless Congress uses narrowly targeted sanctions against individuals found to be responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance and suspected killing.

Rising US equity markets further buoyed prices as US indexes moved higher.

Products futures especially garnered support from rising markets. NYMEX November ULSD was down 8 points at $2.3249/gal but NYMEX November RBOB was 1.48 cents higher at $1.9591/gal.

--Chris van Moessner, christopher.vanmoessner@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Dart, jonathan.dart@spglobal.com