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Kharg Island Oil Terminal, home to 95% of Iran's crude oil exports. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Oil prices are heading downward this morning, as traders respond to the escalating trade war with China, reopened Libyan exports terminals, and fresh signs that the U.S. could provide buyers of Iran crude oil some wiggle room on sanctions, per Reuters.

The intrigue: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to make news yesterday when he said in Abu Dhabi that the U.S. would "consider" waiver requests from a "handful" of countries. But that was in the context of generally tough remarks.

Yes, but: Markets moved, even though it's still unclear whether he went beyond State Department official Brian Hook's July 2 comments, which stated that while the U.S. is not looking to grant waivers, it would work with countries that are reducing imports on a "case by case" basis.

  • I touched base with three analysts — one interpreted Pompeo's remarks as a "marginal softening," while two others saw no change from Hook's comments.
  • To muddy the waters, Hook and Pompeo both seemed more open to some waivers than what an unnamed State official said on background on June 26, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Quoted: Hedgeye Risk Management's Joe McMonigle doesn't see wiggle room, noting State officials have spent weeks telling foreign leaders they expect full compliance.

"The President is focused on cutting off Iran's oil revenues and that is the U.S policy. I doubt there are any countries with whom the U.S. has met that still believe they will be provided an exception to the policy."
— McMonigle via email

Meanwhile: "U.S. government teams spent three days in Saudi Arabia discussing ways to cut off money flows to Iran without disrupting energy markets as Washington presses nations to stop buying Iranian oil by Nov. 4," Bloomberg reports.

Go deeper

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1pm the day after the article is transmitted.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.