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Iran feels the pinch of U.S.-led sanctions

U.S.-led sanctions against Iran are costing OPEC's third-largest producer $133 million a day in lost sales without raising global crude prices, handing President Barack Obama an election-year foreign-policy victory.

Shipments from Iran have plunged by 1.2 million barrels a day, or 52 percent, since the sanctions banning the purchase, transport, financing and insuring of Iranian crude began July 1, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Annualized, that would cost President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's country about $48 billion in revenue, equivalent to 10 percent of its economy.

While Iran's threats to disrupt the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf sent crude to a three-year high in March, increased production from Saudi Arabia, a U.S. output boom, and the slowing global economy have left prices 1 percent lower in 2012.

That's helping Obama avoid steeper domestic fuel costs before the November presidential election. Iran has to contend with a weakening currency and rising unemployment. "It's been an unqualified success," said Mike Wittner, head of oil-market research for the Americas at Societe Generale SA.

Iran is exporting 1.1 million barrels a day of oil, according to the median estimate of 10 analysts compiled by Bloomberg, down from an average of 2.3 million in 2011.

Meanwhile, prices of meat, rice and bread have spiraled in Iran as its currency, the rial, lost a third of its value against the dollar on the open market since November. Inflation accelerated to 22.4 percent in the 12 months through June 20, according to the central bank.

Unemployment reached 13.5 percent in March, the Shargh newspaper reported, citing figures from the national statistics bureau. The jobless rate was 11.9 percent in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Economic growth will slow this year to 0.4 percent, from 2 percent in 2011, the IMF said July 16.

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