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Crude Prices Rise as Iran Says It Seized Foreign Oil Tanker

Oil prices extended gains on Thursday after Iran said it had seized a foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf, pushing geopolitical premiums higher after a brief lull. New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 30 cents, or 0.5%, to $57.08 a barrel by 8:13 AM ET (12:13 GMT), while Brent crude futures, the benchmark for oil prices outside the U.S., gained 48 cents, or 0.8%, to $64.14. Several media reports cited Iranian state TV as saying that Revolutionary Guards forces seized a foreign tanker with 12 crew members accused of smuggling oil. The tanker was reportedly seized in the strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route for oil. Oil prices had been under pressure earlier this week in part from reports that the U.S. and Iran might begin talks soon, ratcheting down the recent tension in the Middle East. Ellen Wald, president of Transversal Consulting and Investing.com contributor, pointed to the fact that the “mere possibility” of negotiations between Washington and Iran had driven U.S. crude down more than 3%. “Overall, this shows that without the Iran tensions, oil prices would be lower, and absent the start of a war, the prices are not likely to increase much based on the Iran situation,” she said. Thursday’s gains in oil were the first after three consecutive sessions of losses due to several bearish factors beyond the Middle East. Contributing to this week’s selloff was the fact that Hurricane Barry passed without causing as much damage as feared, and oil rigs began preparations to restart production. That means they'll be able to contribute again relatively soon to a U.S. market that is already amply supplied: data from the Energy Information Administration showed that, despite a slightly larger-than-expected draw in U.S. crude inventories last week, gasoline and distillate stockpiles surged. In other energy trading, gasoline futures advanced 0.5% to $1.8881 a gallon by 8:15 AM ET (12:15 GMT), while heating oil gained 0.8% to $1.9075 a gallon. Lastly, natural gas futures traded up 0.9% to $2.325 per million British thermal unit.