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U.S. Pullout From Iran Nuclear Deal May Unsettle Oil Markets

Predicting where oil prices may go is often likened to a fool’s game.

In a note published on Tuesday, Steve Wood, Moody’s managing director for oil and gas, even predicted that oil prices would eventually decline from current levels.

“Notwithstanding heightened geopolitical risks,” Mr. Wood said, “we expect oil prices will likely stay in the $45-to-$65 per barrel range over the medium term as non-OPEC production grows.”

U.S. Pullout From Iran Nuclear Deal May Unsettle Oil Markets
U.S. Pullout From Iran Nuclear Deal May Unsettle Oil Markets

Goldman Sachs recently estimated that a six-month loss of 250,000 Iranian barrels a day could raise oil prices by $3.50 a barrel over its summer forecast of $82.50 for Brent crude, the international benchmark. (Its price on Wednesday was slightly above $77.)

That is a relatively small increase, but Iran is only one of several flash points where political tensions may reduce crude supplies.

Oil production is collapsing in Venezuela, battles between warlords puts output at risk in Libya, while disruptions during elections in Nigeria later this year could interrupt petroleum flows. Altogether, a major disruption and spike in prices is possible even if American shale drillers push up their production and Western countries release significant amounts of oil from their strategic reserves.

The biggest risk could come from Iran itself. Tensions between Iran and Israel, and between Iran and Saudi Arabia, have been rising in recent months. Rebels in Yemen backed by Iran are threatening Saudi oil facilities as rockets fly across the border on a regular basis. Hezbollah and Iranian forces appear poised to clash with Israel near its Syrian border. And cyberwarfare in the region is escalating.

A rising oil price naturally follows rising tensions in the region.

“If Iran threatens to resume nuclear testing and the U.S. is concerned,” said Gerald Bailey, president of Petroteq Energy, a Canadian company, with long experience in the Middle East oil patch, “any type of confrontation will drive the prices up, even more especially if words or confrontation turn to action.”

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