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Oil Hits 2003 Low Below $28 as Iran Plans to Raise Output

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Oil prices hit a 2003 low below $28 per barrel on Monday, January 18, as the market braced for a rise in Iranian exports after the lifting of sanctions against Tehran over the weekend.

The United States revoked sanctions that had cut Iran’s oil exports by about 2 million barrels per day (bpd) since their pre-sanctions 2011 peak to little more than 1 million bpd.

Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), issued an order on Monday to lift production by 500,000 bpd, the country’s deputy oil minister said.

Concerns about Iran’s return to an already oversupplied oil market drove down Brent crude LCOc1 to $27.67 a barrel early on Monday, its lowest since 2003. The benchmark was down 12 cents at $28.82 by 1537 GMT.

U.S. crude CLc1 was down 27 cents at $29.15 a barrel, not far from a 2003 low of $28.36 hit earlier in the session.

“Iran’s return to the oil market has been on the agenda for some time and therefore does not really come as any great surprise,” Commerzbank senior analyst Carsten Fritsch said in a note.

“Nonetheless, prices were bound to react negatively in the short term in view of the negative market sentiment,” Fritsch added.

Analysts expect Iran will realistically be able to export an extra 500,000 bpd in the short term from storage, but there are doubts whether the state of Iranian oil infrastructure will allow further boosts anytime soon.

SEB Markets assumes Iranian oil output will rise by 400,000 bpd to 3.2 million bpd in 2016, while Tehran has said it will add 1 million bpd to its existing output by the year-end.

Iran has at least a dozen Very Large Crude Carrier super-tankers filled and in place to sell into the market.

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