Oil price falls as EU, Asia resist USA pressure

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"Germany has said it will protect its companies from US sanctions, Iran has said French oil giant Total has yet to pull out of its fields and all the while it seems the Chinese are ready to fill the void created by the USA", he said.

June contract US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil futures climbed 0.5 percent to $71.38 per barrel, also not far from its November 2014 high of $71.89 reached last week.

"Gas prices are their highest in years, yet that doesn't seem to be slowing motorists down", said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA. Investors are watching whether OPEC and its allies such as Russian Federation intend to end output cuts and increase production if renewed American measures restrict the Persian Gulf state's exports.

Meanwhile, Iran called for clarity over its nuclear deal with world powers, following US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 pact. Opec has an adequate "buffer" of potential production to offset barrels lost from a re-imposition of Iranian sanctions, he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

"That absolute plunge in Venezuelan production. just highlights how tenuous the market is in terms of the supply-and-demand balance", said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC.

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Saudi Arabia, the largest crude oil exporter in the world, has said it will help fill the gap if USA sanctions on Iranian oil importers creates shortages, but it may not be willing to act alone. The previous round of sanctions cut Iran's output in half; it is unclear how much will be cut this time.

Forecasts for Iranian supply losses vary from "little impact" anticipated by Barclays Plc to declines of 500,000 to 1.5 million barrels a day predicted by the sources. Production rates are strong, but so too are USA demand and fuel exports. Iraq's compliance was at 63%, and it was the only member not to have curbed production as agreed under a deal that took effect January 1, 2017 and is scheduled to run through the end of 2018.

Shortly after Trump's pullout announcement, a number of reports by Bank of America Corp suggested that the Iran-related move coupled with a dip in Venezuela's oil production will lay a heavy burden on global crude oil markets. At the same time, the US crude oil's discount to global benchmark Brent widened to more than $7, its deepest in five months.

In addition to the Iran situation, the latest EIA figures painted a picture of lower fuel supply in the United States, which heaped additional upward pressure on prices at the pump.

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