Oil prices pulls back from multimonth high as traders assess Mideast conflict

Oil prices headed modestly lower Tuesday, retreating from multimonth gains achieved in the previous session, as investors bet that an Iranian response to the U.S.’s killing last week of a top Iranian general might not have a lasting impact on crude values.

However, declines for crude prices appeared cautious, amid signs that Mideast tensions could eventually erupt.

“From a market perspective, the lack of immediate response or direct escalation may have removed some upside tail risk, but the principle threat remains the possibility of Iran targeting shipping in the Hormuz Strait or production/export infrastructure in Saudi Arabia,” said Robbie Fraser, senior commodity analyst at Schneider Electric.

“Those threats will remain key risk factors for the foreseeable future under current geopolitical conditions,” he said in a daily note.

Against that backdrop, West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery CLG20, -1.20% was trading 60 cents, or 1%, lower at $62.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after prices on Monday posted the highest settlement for the most-active contract since May 1, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

March Brent crude BRNH20, -1.26% shed 56 cents, or 0.8%, at $68.35 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, a day after the contract settled at its highest since Sept. 16.

The U.S., including the Department of Homeland Security and the Maritime Administration, have issued warnings about potential threats against websites and American vessels in the Persian Gulf in the wake of the airstrike in Iraq that killed Iran’s Maj. General Qassem Soleimani on Friday. U.S. forces in the Middle East were placed on high alert overnight Monday to possibly shoot down Iranian drones amid threats of an imminent attack on U.S. targets, according to CNN.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said the U.S. would be dealt with “at a time and place of Iran’s choosing.”

The current state of affairs in the Middle East suggest that oil trade will be volatile. Still, “oil prices could continue to pullback here as the US-Iran standoff appears headed to a messy long-drawn-out out conflict and not an all-out war,” wrote Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by Reuters indicated that members of the Organization of the Exporting Countries were seeing higher compliance with a pact to tighten curbs on global production. OPEC members produced 29.50 million barrels per day in December, down 50,000 bpd from November, according to the Reuters survey published on Monday.

Last month, OPEC and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed to additional reductions that will take total output cuts for the group to 1.7 million barrels a day, including the current cuts of 1.2 million barrels a day from October 2018 levels that was put into place in January 2019.

Oil traders also looked ahead to the release of weekly data on U.S. petroleum supplies due from the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group, late Tuesday and the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.

Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts, on average, expect the EIA to report a fall of 3.7 million barrels in U.S. crude stockpiles for the week ended Jan. 3. That would mark the government report’s fourth straight weekly decline. The analysts, however, also forecast weekly supply increases of 4.5 million barrels for gasoline and 5 million barrels for distillates, which include heating oil.

On Nymex, February gasoline RBG20, -1.64% declined by 1.5% to $1.7282 a gallon and February heating oil HOG20, -0.39% lost 0.3% to $1.0284 a gallon. February natural gas NGG20, +0.98% added 0.4% to $2.144 per million British thermal units.


This article is for general information purposes only. It is not investment advice or a solution to buy or sell securities. Opinions are the authors; not necessarily that of OANDA Corporation or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, officers or directors. Leveraged trading is high risk and not suitable for all. You could lose all of your deposited funds.

Ed Moya

Ed Moya

Senior Market Analyst, The Americas at OANDA
With more than 20 years’ trading experience, Ed Moya is a senior market analyst with OANDA, producing up-to-the-minute intermarket analysis, coverage of geopolitical events, central bank policies and market reaction to corporate news. His particular expertise lies across a wide range of asset classes including FX, commodities, fixed income, stocks and cryptocurrencies. Over the course of his career, Ed has worked with some of the leading forex brokerages, research teams and news departments on Wall Street including Global Forex Trading, FX Solutions and Trading Advantage. Most recently he worked with TradeTheNews.com, where he provided market analysis on economic data and corporate news. Based in New York, Ed is a regular guest on several major financial television networks including CNBC, Bloomberg TV, Yahoo! Finance Live, Fox Business and Sky TV. His views are trusted by the world’s most renowned global newswires including Reuters, Bloomberg and the Associated Press, and he is regularly quoted in leading publications such as MSN, MarketWatch, Forbes, Breitbart, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Ed holds a BA in Economics from Rutgers University.
Ed Moya