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Oil price surges amid Iran tensions

10 Mai 2018

Even without disruption to Iran's crude flows, the balance between supply and demand in the oil market has been tightening steadily, especially in Asia, with top exporter Saudi Arabia and No.1 producer Russian Federation having led efforts since 2017 to cap output to prop up prices.

With the limits on production by OPEC and non-OPEC countries - led by Saudi Arabia - still in place and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently reporting that crude inventories by a greater than expected 2.2 million barrels in the latest week, the upward momentum in crude oil prices remains.

But oil traders weren't convinced.

US light crude was up $1.70 a barrel, or nearly 2.5 per cent, at $70.76, near highs also last seen in late 2014.

Elevated price levels have encouraged drillers to turn the taps higher.

At least one analysts seemed unfazed by the current global dramas and focused instead on the impact of crude on the overall economy: Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B.

"Short of war, the only way Iran's crude sales could be disrupted is if European and certain Asian buyers revert back to their pre-2015 embargo policy - and there is virtually zero chance of that", Raymond James energy analyst Pavel Molchanov said in email.

The presidential elections will likely result in a victory for incumbent Nicolas Maduro, which might spur the US into further action against Caracas and cut off oil imports from the South American country.

"There is still an open question on how strict the actions will be", said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. The International Energy Agency forecasts an increase of 1.5 million barrels a day in global oil consumption in 2018.

A new US sanctions regime will threaten Iran's ability to attract foreign investment, keeping the country's output flat or lower through 2025, Barclays said.

Yet the details have been vague.

If they do not, Trump has said he would refuse to extend USA sanctions relief for the oil-producing Islamic Republic.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that "we will work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity and stability in the Middle East, notably Syria, Yemen, and Iraq".

The biggest oil producers have formed an organization known as OPEC. USA heating oil futures surged to $2.2258 a gallon, the highest since February 2015. The "de facto" taxation imposed by higher oil prices could slow/halt the already slowing global growth momentum while at the same time raising inflationary pressures.

While the strength bodes well for a host of oil producing countries, it acts as a headwind oil-importing or oil-consuming nations. Iran now exports about 2.8 million barrels a day. A bearish USA government tally of crude and gasoline surpluses was overshadowed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's accusation of the U.S.

The spike in retail fuel prices, unsurprisingly, has caused widespread resentment among consumers who understandably want the government to reduce duties so that the scorching rise in costs can be cooled. The jet fuel product supplied is down 1.5 percent compared to the same four-week period past year.

In stock trading, Google-owner Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) rose 2.87 percent, providing more lift than any other stock to the S&P 500.

Then there are concerns of heightened geopolitical tensions in the Middle East from the unilateral US withdrawal.

Several refiners in Asia said on Wednesday they were seeking alternatives to Iranian supplies. It's too early to know how established those relationships are. "I don't think so".

Oil price surges amid Iran tensions