Oil prices jumped to five-month highs this week, pushed higher by a bullish cocktail of supply outages, geopolitical unrest and a sputtering shale sector.
The most recent factor is the sudden eruption of the long simmering feud in Libya between rival factions. The attack on Tripoli by the Libyan National Army (LNA), a militia led by Khalifa Haftar, led to a spike in oil prices on Monday as the market priced in the possibility of supply outages.
One oil export terminal near Tripoli is the most obvious asset at risk. “If this port were to be shut down due to the fighting, this could see a delivery outage of up to 300,000 barrels per day,” Commerzbank said in a note on Tuesday. “The oil market is already undersupplied, so if supply from Libya also falls away the supply deficit will become even bigger.” Brent jumped to $71 and WTI to $64 on the news, the highest level in five months.
Intriguingly, speculators have only recently turned bullish on crude oil in terms of their positions in the futures market. “Indeed, our money-manager positioning index implies that speculative funds only moved from neutral to positive on oil in the latest week,” Standard Chartered wrote in a report on April 9. The investment bank argued that major investors only began to properly factor in geopolitical risk in the last few days, having overlooked risk for much of this year. Standard Chartered analysts said that the “supply security” of Libyan oil is “low,” and that output could decline in both the short and medium term.
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