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Oil Advances as Iran’s Seizure of Tanker Keeps Tension High


By Sharon Cho and Grant Smith

(Bloomberg) Oil rose again, heading for its biggest gain in more than a week, after Iran’s seizure of a British tanker fanned concerns of a confrontation that could disrupt Middle East supplies.Brent futures added 2% to trade near $64 a barrel in London. The U.K. demanded the immediate release of the Stena Impero, which was taken by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, though British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said in a Sky News Interview that he wanted to de-escalate the situation. The incident comes as U.S. sanctions on Iran heighten political tensions in the oil-rich region.

A measure of oil volatility rose to highest in two weeks on Friday

Oil volatility rose to a two-week high on Friday after the tanker seizure highlighted the risk of flows through the world’s most critical crude choke-point being disrupted. Nonetheless, prices lost more than 6% in London last week, their sharpest pullback in more than a month, on concerns that a slowing global economy will continue to weigh on oil demand.

See also: How a Persian Gulf Conflict Could Impact Commodities Markets

“We’re just not seeing prices react very strongly” to the situation in the Gulf, “primarily because of this macroeconomic backdrop and the concerns the oil market has about what that means for global oil demand,” Richard Mallinson, an analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd., said in a Bloomberg television interview.

Brent for September settlement rose as much as $1.6, or 2.5%, to $64.03 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange and traded at $63.73 as of 10:44 a.m local time. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of $7.01 to its American counterpart, WTI, for the same month.

West Texas Intermediate for August delivery added $0.96, or 1.73%, to $56.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 7.6% last week.

While the U.K. government has threatened Iran with “serious consequences” over the tanker seizure and advised British ships to avoid the area, ministers on Sunday sought to dial down the rhetoric. Tensions have flared after a tanker carrying Iranian oil was seized by U.K. forces near Gibraltar in early July. Around a third of all seaborne crude flows through the Strait of Hormuz.

Libyan oil production is set to recover from a five-month low as the North African supplier’s biggest field restarts following a brief halt.

The country’s crude production fell to about 1 million barrels a day, after a valve in a pipeline carrying crude from the Sharara field to the Zawia refinery was closed. The valve was re-opened Sunday night, the state-run National Oil Corp. said. The declaration of force majeure — which was lifted Monday — removed 290,000 barrels a day of production, it said in an earlier statement.

Other oil-market news:
  • Tankers are offloading millions of barrels of Iranian oil into storage tanks at Chinese ports, creating a hoard of crude sitting on the doorstep of the world’s biggest buyer.
  • Money managers boosted their bets on rising West Texas Intermediate crude prices by the most in four months as of July 16, according to data released Friday.
  • A small oil tanker that Iran accused of smuggling fuel was empty of any cargo when Iranian forces seized it at gunpoint in the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month, according to the company that chartered the ship.
  • China’s independent oil refiners are snapping up higher-quality oil grades as profit margins from turning crude into fuels such as gasoil climb.


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