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Oil falls 2% after Trump orders increased sanctions on Iran instead of military action

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump said he ordered the Treasury Department to "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran.
  • Trump had warned on Sunday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" to respond to the Saudi incident.
  • Oil production capabilities were fully restored and that oil output will be back to pre-attack levels by the end of September, Saudi energy minister said.
Foreign "guest workers" drill at the Saudi Aramco oil field complex facilities on March 2003 in Shaybah, Saudi Arabia.
Reza | Getty Images

Oil prices retreated on Wednesday, extending the decline in the previous session after President Donald Trump said he ordered the Treasury Department to "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran.

Trump's announcement follows attacks on the world's largest crude-processing plant and oil field in Saudi Arabia that had forced the kingdom to cut its production in half. Oil prices jumped the most in history on Monday due to the disruption.

Brent crude oil futures were down 36 cents, or 0.56%, at $64.21 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures settled 2.1% or $1.23 lower at $58.11 a barrel. 

The latest comment from the president marks a softening in his rhetoric as he had warned on Sunday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" to respond to the Saudi incident.

Oil tumbled as much as 7% on Tuesday after the Saudi energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said oil production capabilities were fully restored and that oil output will be back to pre-attack levels by the end of September.

Fifty percent of the oil production loss from the attack has been restored in the past two days, bin Salman said, adding that production capacity would reach 10 million barrels of crude per day (bpd) by the end of this month and 12 million bpd by the end of November.

Trump said Monday he's in no rush to respond to the coordinated attack. When asked if Iran was behind it, Trump said "It's certainly looking that way at this point."

Drone and missile debris found by investigators at the Saudi Aramco attack site is proof of Iran's involvement in the drone attack, a Saudi defense ministry representative told media on Wednesday. He said the drones used in the attacks were Iranian Delta-wing unmanned aerial vehicles.

Iran maintains that it was not behind the attacks. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said the attacks on Aramco were a "reciprocal response" to the aggression against Yemen.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for the drone strikes, saying in a tweet Saturday that Iran has launched an "unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply."

Oil pared some of its loses after an unexpected rise in crude inventories.

U.S. crude inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels from the previous week, according to the Energy Information Administration. Analysts expected a decrease of 2.5 million barrels.

— CNBC's Maggie Fitzgerald contributed reporting.