Oil rose above $110 per barrel for the first time since May after an Iranian news agency broke the story of a major Saudi pipeline explosion, Bloomberg is reporting.
Questions remain about the story’s authenticity, as recent diplomatic antagonism between Iran and Saudi Arabia has centered on oil realpolitik — with anticipation of a western embargo against Iranian crude causing marked price instability.
The explosion allegedly ripped through pipelines in the Saudi city of Awwamiya, which has been the nexus of ongoing violent clashes between police and Shi’ite protestors. Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of stirring civil discontent; the kingdom’s Shi’ites are a vulnerable minority, while Shi’ites constitute the staunch majority of Iran’s Muslims.
Crude oil’s market value continues to rise as diplomatic standoff escalates in the Middle East. Futures in New York rose 1.7% in regular trading after U.S. officials issued a warning that Saudi Arabia might partner with Israel in taking military action against Iran if it fails to cease uranium enrichment. As Bloomberg notes, crude oil futures previously settled at a nine-month high of $109.77 on Feb. 24.
However, Brent crude is experiencing the most rapid climb in market value, and stands as the oil commodity most responsive to diplomatic upset. Since Iran is a major Brent supplier, rendering it an economic pariah would cause a marked disjunct between global supply and demand. Were Iran to be excluded from the global market, analysts predict the daily global consumption of crude would outstrip production by 3 million barrels per day, a 2.5 million barrel rise above current figures.
According to Bloomberg, Brent’s premium to New York-traded West Texas intermediate oil rose to $17.36 on further news of diplomatic tension. Supplies in the U.S. stockpiles at Cushing, Okla., rose 1.65 million barrels to 33.8 million barrels total last week — the highest figure recorded by the Department of Energy since August.
— Adam Patterson, InvestorPlace Assistant Editor