Oil prices should remain stable this week as fears of an escalating standoff between the West and Iran wane, a CNBC survey finds.
Crude oil prices have soared this year amid accusations from the West that Iran is building a nuclear weapons program.
Sanctions slapped on Iran have already curtailed the country's oil exports to parts of Europe, while Iran has threatened to close the oil-rich Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway connecting several oil-rich Persian Gulf countries with the rest of the world.
Iran and delegates from the U.S., U.K., China, France, and Russia and Germany recently met in Turkey to negotiate a way out of the crisis and agreed to meet again in Baghdad, Iraq, later in May.
That has oil markets calm.
A CNBC survey finds six out of 13 respondents expect oil prices to remain steady, while four respondents feel prices will fall while three expect a rise.
"If tensions with Iran cool somewhat, I would anticipate the focus shifting to the improving supply/demand balance and we could see a strong move to the downside over the next several weeks," says Kirk Howell, Chief Operating Officer, of SunGard's energy and commodities business, SunGard Kiodex, CNBC adds.
Meanwhile, China's economy grew less than expected in the first quarter, with the country's gross domestic product expanding 8.1 percent, below expectations for 8.3 percent growth and well beneath the fourth quarter's 8.9 percent expansion.
The country over the weekend widened the trading bands that limit the range the yuan can trade against the dollar, a sign Beijing wants the economy to grow, although energy markets largely shrugged off the news and opted instead to worry about growth figures.
High oil prices have sent U.S. gasoline prices soaring, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says the government will keep an eye on global growth and Iran.
"I think it depends a lot on two factors. One is how strong growth is around the world. That's the biggest factor that affects oil prices, and it depends on how events develop in the gulf and with respect to Iran," Geithner tells ABC News.
"There's been a little bit encouraging news recently, particularly because we've seen the supply of oil, because of actions that the Saudis have taken and others, increase quite significantly. And that's helped calm prices in oil markets, and that's pretty encouraging."
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