Oil steadies below four-year highs; US inventory rise expected

King Salman

Brent crude lost 37 cents to $84.61 per barrel by 1200 GMT on Tuesday after reaching a four-year high of $85.45 in the previous session.

Exchange data show hedge funds' combined net long position in Brent and USA light crude futures and options at its largest since late July, equivalent to about 850 million barrels.

This would be the first highest trade deal hitting above the USD$85 per barrel threshold since November of 2014.

Brent has risen by more than 20% from its most recent lows in August, Reuters reported.

Donald Trump spoke on the phone Saturday with King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, days after the USA president's latest criticism of OPEC.

The message was delivered by Ali Kardor, the head of state-run National Iranian Oil Company, who added that his country's oil income has increased 40 percent in the past year and that it may start offering oil via its stock exchange as soon as next week - which would allow private companies to export, thus bypassing the US sanctions.

Many analysts say OPEC will struggle to cover a decline in exports from Iran.

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Citigroup Inc. has a warning for US oil investors: American crude prices may tumble to the steepest discount against global benchmark Brent since 2013.

Higher oil prices and a strong USA dollar could hit demand growth next year, analysts said.

The further rise in oil prices came on the back of supply concerns before United States sanctions against Iran come into force next month. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies also showed little enthusiasm for boosting output despite President Donald Trump's demand for lower prices.

The ability of the oil price to remain elevated at around four-year highs, comes amid a variety of developments, led by the upcoming USA sanctions against Iran, which come into full force on November 4.

Trump has been increasing pressure on OPEC, saying it's pushing oil prices too high.

With oil prices soaring, there are concerns over their inflationary effect on demand growth, especially in Asia's emerging markets where weakening currencies are further adding to high fuel import costs.

"Even if they (Saudi Arabia) wanted to bend to President Trump's wishes, how much spare capacity does the Kingdom have?" he asked.

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