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Oil rises above $114 on Middle East supply worries

Published: October 10, 2012 | 9:18 am
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Brent crude oil rose above $114 a barrel on Wednesday as worries over the security of Middle East supplies outweighed increasing evidence of slowing global economic growth.

Weak risk sentiment coursed through financial markets, pulling down stock markets and boosting the dollar after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that a deepening euro zone debt crisis was threatening the global economy.

The IMF said in its semi-annual check on the world’s financial health that risks to global financial stability had risen in the past six months, leaving confidence “very fragile”.

But shelling along the Turkey-Syria border, hostility between Iran and the West, and an impending Israeli election, have raised worries over the risks to oil supplies from the Middle East Gulf, keeping a floor under prices.

Brent crude climbed 5 cents a barrel to $114.55 by 4.25 a.m. EDT, near its highest for three weeks. U.S. crude fell 25 cents to $92.14 a barrel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an early election on Tuesday, eager to strengthen his political position ahead of any military action against Iran.

“The nuclear dispute with Iran is going to be an election issue in Israel, and this might cause the price to rise in coming weeks, or at least support it,” said Carsten Fritsch, oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

“Other factors are playing a hand in this, such as the tensions between Turkey and Syria,” Fritsch added.


Global economic gloom, meanwhile, has put a dampener on many markets.

China’s annual economic growth probably slowed for a seventh straight quarter in the July-September period to its weakest level since the depths of the global financial crisis, a Reuters poll showed.

On Tuesday the IMF said that the global economic slowdown was worsening and cut its growth forecasts for the second time since April, warning U.S. and European policymakers that failure to fix their economic ills would prolong the slump.

The IMF forecast global output in 2012 would grow by only 3.3 percent, down from a July estimate of 3.5 percent.

“A lot of growth expectations are being revised down, especially in China,” said Ben Le Brun, a market analyst at OptionsXpress in Sydney.

Middle East tensions remain a constant worry for oil.

Turkey and Syria have repeatedly exchanged fire since last week after Syrian shells struck a Turkish border town. Turkey’s chief of general staff said on Wednesday that the country’s military would respond with greater force if shelling from Syria continued to spill over the border.

NATO says that it has plans in place to defend Turkey against an attack from Syria and will aim to provide assistance if Ankara asks for it.

“The geopolitical risk premium was boosted from mounting tensions between Turkey and Syria,” ANZ analysts said in a note. “This has increased supply disruption concerns, particularly if the Syrian conflict begins to hamper oil production in northern Iraq.”

Investors were looking to weekly data on oil inventories from the United States, due this week, for hints on demand at the top oil consumer. Analysts forecast a 1 million barrel build in crude stocks in the week to October 5.

Industry data from the American Petroleum Institute will be released at 4.30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday and figures from the U.S. government’s Department of Energy will follow on Thursday, both sets of figures delayed a day by the U.S. Columbus Day holiday.


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