Brent oil extended its relentless rally above $110 a barrel before an OPEC+ meeting as the International Energy Agency warned that global energy security is under threat following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Futures in London and New York both soared almost 6% – pushing West Texas Intermediate to the highest since 2013 – before easing slightly.
The situation across energy markets is very serious, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said Tuesday after the US and other economies agreed to release oil reserves.
Investors will be watching for a response from OPEC+ when the cartel meets Wednesday to discuss April supply, but only a modest increase is expected despite the turmoil rippling through the sector.
The global oil market had already tightened significantly prior to the invasion after economies rebounded strongly from the pandemic, and the disruption to Russian exports has the potential to drive crude prices even higher.
Traders are paying the most in more than two years betting that will happen, while banks including Morgan Stanley have boosted near-term forecasts.
Governments worldwide are facing rising inflationary pressure as the fallout from Russian sanctions drives energy, metals and grains prices higher. That’s prompted the US and its allies to release 60 million barrels of strategic oil reserves to tame prices, though similar action late last year had little impact.
Russia’s flagship Urals crude oil was offered for sale at a record discount but got no bidders, highlighting the caution from buyers as they navigate mounting financial sanctions. While the US and its allies have so far stopped short of imposing penalties directly on Russian commodities, trade is halting as banks pull financing and shipping costs surge.
“I can only see oil heading higher,” said Daniel Hynes, senior commodities strategist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.
“The market is waking up to the reality that we are already experiencing constraints on Russia oil without any formal sanctions. It’s hard to see what OPEC can do.”
Brent remains in deep backwardation, a bullish structure where prompt barrels are more expensive than later-dated cargoes, indicating nervousness over tightening supply. The benchmark’s prompt spread was $4.99 a barrel, compared with $1.39 at the start of last month.
Russia’s invasion is entering a deadly new phase, which could result in more sanctions. President Joe Biden is facing pressure from lawmakers in both parties to cut off US imports of Russian oil and gas to escalate the cost to Russia, which would likely provide another boost to global prices.
The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reverberated far and wide. Oil majors such as BP Plc and Shell Plc are exiting Russia, while banks across the globe including in Singapore are restricting trade financing for raw materials. Even the residents of a tiny archipelago off Scotland are doing everything they can to stop a Russian oil tanker from docking.
Separately, the American Petroleum Institute reported US crude inventories fell by 6.1 million barrels last week, according to people familiar with the data. Stockpiles at the key storage hub in Cushing also declined, the API said. Energy Information Administration figures are due later Wednesday.
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