Oil prices along with most risk assets are moving almost in sync on trade tariff updates. In the event, we see a negative outcome and tariffs are implemented and China queues up retaliatory measures, we will see equities selloff harder than we will see oil prices slide. Crude prices are likely to be supported on geopolitical risks. West Texas Intermediate crude is roughly 9% off the April highs and we could see buyers remain in place if we see the $60 level hold. If talks completely fell apart, US equities could tumble 10% along with crude, but that is the least likely outcome.
In the short-term, we could see the Iran situation be the biggest bullish catalyst for oil prices. With the ending of the US sanction waivers becoming effective this month, Iranian shipments are falling sharply. China, India, South Korea and Japan are now faced with finding a new provider for roughly 1 million barrels crude or face sanctions from the US. While Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Russia will pick up the slack, the spare capacity available could see some delays in filling immediate needs. Iran is definitely feeling further economic pressure as no tankers were seen leaving their terminals so far in May. Further economic pain could see this escalate dangerously with increased Iranian actions to shutdown the Strait of Hormuz or military mobilization.
While the tariff uncertainty remains high on how this will unfold, the base case remains that a deal will get done either in May or early June. Both the Chinese and US are applying standard negotiating tactics that could see the situation get uglier before paving the way forward for a deal. Crude is likely to react poorly on major trade disappointments, but it should be supported on the geopolitical risks from Iran, Venezuela, and Libya.
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