Oil Prices Rise as Supply Fears Linger

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Oil futures traded higher on Monday, with some market players saying they remain focused on supply shortfalls even as governments in consuming nations release crude from strategic reserves.

In London, Brent crude for June delivery on ICE Futures close up $3.14 at $107.53 per barrel. In New York, May West Texas Intermediate (WTI) on Nymex added $4.01 to close at $103.28/bbl.

Prices gave back some of their gains as the International Energy Agency (IEA) prepared to release details on the coordinated sales from strategic reserves beyond the 180 million barrels already committed by the US.

But several countries are also mulling more sanctions against Russia, which could tighten the market, and oil prices on exchanges continued to rise after the close in New York.

As Russian military forces withdraw from parts of Ukraine, evidence of potential war crimes is emerging. Phil Flynn of Chicago’s Price Futures Group said the market expects more sanctions to be levied on Russia as a result.

He added that releasing oil from strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) not only fails to address the real factors driving high prices, but could backfire.

“This is only a band-aid … we are still in a structural supply deficit and [SPR releases] aren’t going to fix it,” Flynn said.

Slow Growth

The situation is especially painful as the upstream response to higher oil prices has been slow, with incremental US supply moving in small bursts and Opec and its allies keeping a tight lid on production.

Releases are “only a temporary solution, but offer a buffer over the next six months as producers ramp up production, including Opec-plus, which has until now refused to accelerate its efforts in any significant way,” noted Craig Erlam of Oanda.

Several other factors are also supporting oil prices. A deal to put Iranian barrels back on the global market remains elusive, with talks grinding to a halt in Austria over the weekend as Iran seeks guarantees from the US that it will not abandon a new agreement as well as remove the Revolutionary Guard from the US terrorism list.

The timing is critical, some experts said. “The shortfall in Russian supplies is expected to start being felt in earnest this month," said Stephen Brennock of brokerage PVM. "And the lifting of Iranian export restrictions would greatly help alleviate the tightness in crude markets."

“Consequently, the latest setback in Iranian nuclear negotiations could keep prices higher for longer. That said, this also means that there will be a greater sense of urgency in bringing Iran back to the market," he added.

Crude Oil, Oil Prices, Oil Futures and Derivatives, Oil Supply, Oil Products, Oil Trade, Sanctions, Ukraine Crisis
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