Benchmark Brent crude (LCOc1) fell below $70 a barrel for the first time since early April, and was down about 20 percent since reaching four-year highs at the beginning of October. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were at $61.63 per barrel at 0125 GMT, down 4 cents from their last settlement.
Oil prices fell almost 2 percent on Thursday as investors focused on swelling global crude supply, which is increasing more quickly than many had expected. If the contract finishes lower on Friday, it will mark 10 consecutive down sessions, the longest losing streak for the commodity in about 34 years, according to data from Refinitiv. U.S. light crude oil dropped 40 cents to $60.27, set for a fifth weekly fall, down 4.5 percent this week and more than 21 percent since early October.
It doesn't feel that long ago that global oil traders were concerned about rising demand and supply scarcity.
Crude slumped after reaching a four-year high last month as the U.S. allowed eight countries to continue importing oil from the Persian Gulf state even after it hits the Opec producer with sanctions.
But other big producers have more than compensated for lost Iranian barrels.
The United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping at or near record highs, producing more than 33 million barrels per day (bpd), a third of the world's oil.
"The market is now going to look to Opec and non-Opec producers to rein in production as the U.S. has granted eight countries waivers from sanction, which in essence adds to supply", said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. Washington has granted exemptions to Iran's biggest buyers, allowing them to buy limited amounts of oil for at least another six months.
China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) said on Friday that it was still taking oil from Iranian fields in which it has stakes. Though the Iranian exports have declined, countries still have excess stock available.
Bernstein Energy expects "Iranian exports will average 1.4-1.5 million barrels per day (bpd)" during the exemption period, down from a peak of nearly 3 million bpd in mid-2018.
Inventories in Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for USA crude futures, have risen for seven straight weeks. "A slowdown in the global economy remains the key downside risk to oil".
A return to oil production cuts by the Organisation of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies can not be ruled out next year, a senior OPEC source said yesterday. A Reuters report earlier this week suggested that the OPEC may consider cutting its production at its meeting in Abu Dhabi, scheduled for this Sunday.