Oil and natural gas prices are soaring on the news of a Russian attack on Ukraine. Oil prices are back above $100 per barrel. A perfect storm of excess global liquidity, years of starving oil and gas companies of capital in favor of alternative energy producers, and a major oil producer disrupting the current world order could see prices spike even higher. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an undeniable reminder that oil remains the world’s most important commodity. Joe Wallace and Jenny Strasburg report for The Wall Street Journal:
A global oil benchmark surged above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014, and prices for natural gas, metals and grains, key feedstocks for the global economy, vaulted higher after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatened to disrupt resource exports from the region.
The most-widely held futures for Brent crude, which call for delivery of oil in May, jumped 7% to $101.64 a barrel. Natural-gas prices in Europe, which depends on Russia for supplies of oil and gas, leapt by 40%.
Rising energy prices stand to prolong the inflationary pressures that are pushing the Federal Reserve and other central banks to raise interest rates and wind down easy monetary policies. In particular, rising global crude markets have boosted gasoline prices in the U.S., contributing to inflation running there at its fastest pace in 40 years. On average, regular gasoline cost about $3.54 a gallon Thursday, according to AAA, up from $2.66 a gallon a year ago.
There was no immediate interruption to the flow of crude oil, refined petroleum products and natural gas to global markets, analysts, traders and Western officials said. The company that runs Ukraine’s gas pipeline, which funnels Russian gas to Western Europe, said the network was running smoothly midmorning local time.
However, traders and officials were bracing for disruption to energy exports. Stronger sanctions on Russia’s financial system, promised by the West, could disrupt commodities trading.
Of immediate concern were shipment to markets in western, central and Eastern Europe.
Commercial shipping in and out of Ukraine largely stopped after Russian forces attacked the country from multiple points.
Marine traffic data showed no vessels crossing the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, through which dozens of ships cross daily in normal times to move commodities such as steel and grain.
“The things we took to be unthinkable have already happened, and Europe has to be prepared for worse to come,” said Václav Bartuška, ambassador-at-large for energy security in the Czech Republic.
Alongside Saudi Arabia, Moscow leads a group of many of the world’s largest crude producers, called OPEC+, which has gradually been boosting global production to meet soaring demand.
Oil revenue is crucial for the Russian economy, making it unlikely Moscow would cut off its taps completely. Still, its role in OPEC+ decision-making gives it outsize influence over global markets. Russia alone exports 7.5 million barrels of crude and petroleum products derived from it a day, according to Cowen Inc.
“They are a commodity superstore, and we are tight in all of these markets right now,” said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets. “Any indication that Russia is going to restrict oil exports will cause concern,” she said.
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