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Published 17:11 IST, April 20th 2024

Geopolitical flashpoint in the Middle East: Will oil prices rise further?

Benchmark Brent crude prices rose by $3 per barrel on Friday, exceeding $90 per barrel for the first time in recent months.

Reported by: Sankunni K
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Middle East oil price rise | Image: Freepik
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Oil price rise: Recent events in the Middle East have added uncertainty to the already volatile global oil market. Unconfirmed reports of Israeli airstrikes against Iran, following Iranian drone and missile attacks last week, have raised concerns about a potential escalation in the region.

A precarious situation

The current situation can be traced back to an attack on a suspected Iranian embassy compound in Syria, allegedly carried out by Israel. In retaliation, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles towards Israel last weekend. While most attacks were intercepted, the event further strained relations between the two nations.

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Oil price volatility

News of a potential Israeli response triggered a surge in oil prices on Friday. Benchmark Brent crude prices rose by $3 per barrel, exceeding $90 per barrel for the first time in recent months. This sharp increase sparked anxieties in major oil-importing economies like India, where a sustained price rise could significantly impact import bills and weaken currencies.

Market uncertainty prevails

However, the initial price surge was short-lived. Iranian media downplayed the reported Israeli attacks, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty. The lack of confirmed details and conflicting narratives caused the market to pull back slightly, with oil prices retreating from their peak.

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Market analysts highlight the vulnerability of the oil market to geopolitical tensions. Even seemingly minor incidents, fuelled by political friction, can have a significant impact on prices.

Beyond geopolitics

It's crucial to recognise that geopolitical tensions are only one-factor influencing oil prices. Other key considerations include:

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  • Global demand: An upswing in global demand, particularly from a recovering global economy, can exert upward pressure on oil prices.
  • Supply constraints: Production cuts implemented by OPEC+ (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies) aimed at manipulating prices by restricting supply also contribute to price increases.

The road ahead: De-escalation or disruption?

The future trajectory of oil prices hinges on developments in the Middle East. Two potential scenarios emerge:

  • De-escalation: If tensions subside and diplomatic channels prevail, oil prices could stabilise or even decrease, influenced by other market forces like global demand and existing supply constraints.
  • Escalation: Any escalation in the conflict, leading to disruptions in oil production or transportation from the Middle East, could trigger a significant price surge. This scenario would have far-reaching economic consequences for countries heavily reliant on oil imports.

The coming days and weeks will be crucial in determining the long-term impact of this geopolitical tension on the oil market.

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16:51 IST, April 20th 2024