World Bulletin / News Desk
Iran acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that its oil exports have fallen sharply, down 20-30 percent from normal volumes of 2.2 million barrels daily.
A National Iranian Oil Company official in Moscow denied exports had been hit by West sanctions against Iran's nuclear programme, saying that oilfields were under maintenance and crude production was being diverted for refining.
But the admission that exports have fallen substantially is a change of tack from Tehran which until now has denied that the U.S. and European sanctions have had much or any impact.
"It was 20 to 30 percent we reduce regarding to our export," NIOC official Mohammad Ali Emadi said in English. "Some part of the reduction is shifting for the refinery internally."
European Union bans on imports and tanker insurance for ships carrying Iranian crude are due to come into effect on July 1.
Emadi said Iran's normal crude exports were 2.2 million bpd, in line with external estimates. A 20-30 percent fall would put Iranian exports at 1.54-1.76 million bpd, off 440-660,000 bpd.
That is still above most third-party estimates which put Iran's crude exports in June at about 1.3 million bpd.
"We gradually started to reduce, It is not because of the sanctions but sometime regarding overhaul maintenance of the wells," said Emadi.
The NIOC official said Iran wanted to export more gas to India and Pakistan to make up for the fall in crude exports. Iran has long aspired to export gas east but would require heavy investment in a pipeline or liquefied natural gas facilities to do so.
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ultra-conservative kingdom has moved to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy following a sharp fall in crude prices.
In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.