Oil prices steadied today but remained on track for a weekly loss on fears that trade disputes will dent global oil demand, though attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week gave prices a floor.
Brent crude futures were up nine cents at $61.40 a barrel today, having gained 2.2% yesterday.
US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 13 cents at $52.15. WTI also rose 2.2% in the previous session.
Both contracts were on course to register weekly declines of about 3%.
The International Energy Agency cut its demand growth forecast for 2019 by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.2 million bpd, citing worsening prospects for world trade.
However, the Paris-based agency said it expects demand growth to climb to 1.4 million bpd for 2020.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries yesterday cut its 2019 forecast for growth in global oil demand even lower than the IEA, to 1.14 million bpd.
The attacks on oil tankers near Iran and the Strait of Hormuz pushed up oil prices by as much as 4.5% on Thursday.
It was the second time in a month tankers have been attacked in the world's most important zone for oil supplies as tensions increase between the US and Iran.
Washington blamed Iran for yesterday's attacks, prompting a denial and criticism from Tehran.
"Yesterday's attacks on the Japanese and Norwegian tankers in the Gulf of Oman underscore the severity of the security risks stemming from the Iran crisis and the difficulty of achieving a diplomatic off-ramp as long as the crippling U.S. sanctions remain in place," RBC bank said.
Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 multinational nuclear pact with Iran and reimposed sanctions, especially targeting Tehran's oil exports.
Iran, which has distanced itself from the previous attacks, has said it will not be cowed by what it calls psychological warfare.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US has assessed Iran was behind the attacks.
American officials released images they said show that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil tanker near the entrance to the Persian Gulf on Thursday https://t.co/bFIFSuXiGw pic.twitter.com/LffwsARZFV— Bloomberg (@business) June 14, 2019
The US military later released a video that it said showed Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of a Japanese-owned oil tanker.
But the Iranian mission to the United Nations said Tehran "categorically rejects the US unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms".