Heightened U.S.-Iran Tensions Can Continue to Benefit Bullish Oil Bettors

Geopolitical oil supply disruptions could continue to feed into higher oil prices, which will benefit bullish bettors. Attacks on two oil tanker ships off the coast of Iran sent oil prices upward as finger pointing between the United States and Iran ensued.

U.S. intelligence was quick to identify Iran as the culprit of the attacks. According to video evidence, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was shown removing an unexploded from one of the two oil tankers that were attacked.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude went 2.2 percent higher or $1.14 higher to reach a price level of $52.22 on Thursday, while Brent crude gained $1.34 or 2.2 percent to reach $61.31 per barrel.

“I think it’s quite clear that we are at the late stage of the current growth cycle and so to that extent, supply shocks aside, I don’t see the oil price spiking substantially higher,” said John Woods, Asia Pacific chief investment officer at Credit Suisse.

Fears of a global economic slowdown are also weighing on the minds of oil traders. After the U.S. central bank kept interest rates unchanged last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that “we’ve noted some developments at home and around the world that bear our close attention.”

That dovishness has translated into more cautious investors who are unwilling to dial up the risk with respect to capital allocation. A global economic slowdown could also keep oil prices in check with the prospect of weaker demand.

“Demand for oil in a decelerating growth environment is likely to remain in play and as a consequence, I don’t think we have to worry too much about a higher oil price,” Woods added.

Oil prices rocketed higher last month following U.S. President Donald Trump ending waivers on companies wishing to purchase Iranian oil without facing stiff sanctions. The companies affected most by these waivers were China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

“Escalating geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and dislocations in Venezuela and the brewing cauldron in Libya are reminders that security of forward supply feels increasingly fragile,” said Bill Herbert, a senior research analyst at Simmons Energy.

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