- If U.S.-led forces invade Iraq (news – web sites), world oil prices will probably plunge from current levels and stay there — so long as the conflict ends quickly and causes little damage to production capacity in the Persian Gulf, several energy analysts said Friday. [AP]
On the other…
- However, a war that spills into neighboring countries or one in which Saddam Hussein sabotages his own oil fields could panic markets and trigger a spike in prices to $50 or even $60 a barrel, some said.
- Analysts say that fears of a wartime disruption in supply have swollen crude prices by at least $5 a barrel. This so-called war premium has increased along with tensions in the Persian Gulf because markets worry that hostilities with Iraq will paralyze that country’s 2 million barrels in daily oil shipments.
Although prices might rise in the last hours before any actual outbreak of hostilities, several analysts predicted that an attack on Iraq would knock the floor out from beneath the market – just as it did when coalition forces launched Operation Desert Storm on Jan. 16, 1991.
Futures contracts of U.S. light, sweet crude plummeted by $10.90 a barrel on Jan. 17, 1991 to close in New York at $21.30.
“History would suggest that oil prices would go down fairly rapidly, maybe $5-7 a barrel, probably within one day,” said Angus McPhail, an analyst at ING Financial Markets in Edinburgh, Scotland.
He believes that markets will be awash in crude after a swift war, particularly if Venezuela continues to recover from an oil industry strike and other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries keep busting their output quotas. For the second half of the year, ING Financial Markets foresees an average Brent crude price of $18.50 a barrel.
“We are adamant that oil prices will fall,” McPhail said.
- In a worst-case scenario, a wider war could inflame regional hostility to the United States and lead to another Arab oil embargo. Prices might then spike to as much as $60 a barrel, said Rob Laughlin, managing director of London brokerage GNI Man Financial.
Former Saudi Arabian oil minister Sheikh Zaki Yamani agreed, telling an industry conference Friday that prices could exceed $50 a barrel if supplies from neighboring countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were interrupted.
I am voting short war, falling prices – about damn time on both counts.