The publication of US inventory data was delayed from its usual Wednesday afternoon timing by the holiday. But the previous week’s data which unexpectedly showed a 0.5 per cent fall in gasoline stocks to 212.4 million barrels combined with the prospect of millions of Americans taking to the cars to enjoy the break was enough to worry traders. Concerns about the impending hurricane season, predicted to be an unusually severe one, are also providing support
to prices.

Similarly with the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme, each incident in the crisis moves the market without there being any actual impact on oil supplies. The G8 said in early July that the Islamic republic should respond during by the end of the month to the package of incentives offered by the UN to suspend uranium enrichment. However, Tehran has postponed talks with the EU over the issue and has previously said it will respond by August provoking criticism from the US for the slowness of the decision.

News that North Korea had test-fired several missiles in early July also added strength to prices, despite the lack of any likely
material impact on oil prices.
Better news for traders emerged from Iraq, where the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil export pipeline resumed operations, taking the country’s oil exports to 1.8 million-1.9 million barrels a day. Baghdad has also said that it will invite international oil companies to help develop its oil fields by the end of the year. According to BP’s latest annual statistical review, released in June, Iraq has proven reserves of some 115,000 million barrels.