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Crude prices stabilize amid Middle East uncertainity, Venezuela sanctions talk

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— Oil prices steadied Tuesday after the previous session’s selloff as traders keep an eye on developments in the Middle East as well as the potential for additional supply from Venezuela.

By 09:20 ET (13.20 GMT), the futures traded 0.1% lower at $85.23 a barrel, while the contract dropped 0.1% to $89.62 a barrel.

Biden set to visit the Middle East

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to the Middle East later this week in a likely attempt to contain a regional escalation of Israel’s war with Hamas.

Biden leaves later Tuesday, amid reports Jordan will host a four-party summit in Amman on Wednesday with the U.S. President and Egyptian and Palestinian leaders expected to discuss the “dangerous” repercussions of the war in Gaza for the region.

This has put the situation on hold for a day at least, delaying worries that an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza could draw other regional countries and groups into the war, and resulting in a tight trading range. 

Venezuela sanctions to be eased?

Both contracts had fallen around $1 a barrel on Monday on a report that the United States had reached a preliminary deal with Venezuela to ease sanctions surrounding its oil exports if Venezuela’s government, lead by President Nicolas Maduro, returns to political negotiations with the country’s opposition, almost a year after the last meeting.

The U.S. has sanctioned oil exports, since 2019, from Venezuela, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to punish Maduro’s government following highly-disputed elections in 2018.

The U.S. government has been seeking ways to increase the flow of oil to world markets to alleviate high prices. 

U.S. retail sales jumped in September

Economic data released earlier Tuesday showed that U.S. increased more than expected in September, suggesting the largest economy in the world, and biggest oil consumer, ended the third quarter on a strong note.

However, this could provide the Federal Reserve with more reason to increase interest rates once more before the end of the year, after proved to be sticky last week, potentially weighing on economic activity further on down the line. 

Retail sales rose 0.7% last month, above the 0.3% growth expected, while data for August was revised higher to show sales advancing 0.8% instead of 0.6% as previously reported.

China, the world’s largest oil importer, releases its third-quarter later Tuesday, with growth expected to have deteriorated further through the quarter.

(Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)

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