Oil prices climb amid fall in U.S. stockpiles, Middle East worries

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Oil prices climb amid fall in U.S. stockpiles, Middle East worries

A pumpjack is seen at sunset outside Scheibenhard, near Strasbourg, France, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Oil prices rose over 1% on Wednesday to hit their highest in nearly a month as widely-watched data showed U.S. crude stockpiles fell more than expected, underpinning a market already buoyed by worries over potential U.S.-Iran conflict.

Front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were up 1.4% at $65.97 by 0006 GMT. They earlier touched their highest since May 31 at $66.00 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $58.97 per barrel, up 2% from their last settlement. WTI earlier hit its strongest level since May 30 at $59.03 a barrel.

Analysts said the moves were mainly driven by American Petroleum Institute (API) data showing a fall in U.S. crude inventories.

U.S. crude stockpiles dropped by 7.5 million barrels in the week ended June 21 to 474.5 million, compared with analyst expectations for a decrease of 2.5 million barrels, the data showed. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 1.3 million barrels.

“Crude prices popped after the weekly API inventory report,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst, OANDA.

The data came as traders watch for any signs that tensions between the United States and Iran could escalate into military conflict.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to obliterate parts of Iran if it attacked “anything American,” in a new war of words with Iran, which condemned fresh U.S. sanctions on Tehran as “mentally retarded”.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Joseph Radford