Brent crude oil prices increased to their highest since November 2014 on Monday, ahead of US sanctions against Iran, which is the third largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, that will take effect in the next month.
Benchmark Brent crude oil futures climbed to as much as $83.27 per barrel and were at $83.21, higher 48 cents, or 0.6 percent to their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were 32 cents higher, or 0.4 percent, at $73.57 per barrel.
WTI prices were buoyed by a report on Friday of a stagnating rig count in the United States, which indicates a slowdown in US crude production, which now rivals the top producers in the world, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Brent was pushed up by the imminent sanctions against Iran, which is set to kick off on the oil sector from November 4.
ANZ bank stated on Monday that “the market is eyeing oil prices at $100 per barrel.”
Meanwhile, hedge funds raised their bullish wagers on US crude in the week to September 25, which is a sign that the financial market is getting ready for further price hikes. This was according to the data from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), increasing futures and options positions in New York and London by 3,728 contracts to 346,566 during the period.
China’s Sinopec said that it is cutting into halves its loadings Iranian crude oil this month, further manifesting the impact of the US sanctions on Iran and on the market. China is the largest buyer of Iranian oil.
“If Chinese refiners do comply with US sanction more fully than expected, then the market balance is likely to tighten even more aggressively,” said Edward Bell, who is a commodity analyst at Emirates NBD bank, in a note released on Sunday.
US President Donald Trump called Saudi Arabia’s King Salman over the weekend and talked about the ways to maintain sufficient supply once Iran’s exports are hit by the US sanctions.
“Until sizable supply is offered up by OPEC, ultimately traders will continue to push the envelope even more,” said Stephen Innes, who is the head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore. “Even if they (Saudi Arabia) wanted to bend to President Trump’s wishes, how much spare capacity does the Kingdom have?”
Innes further added that the market would find the answer out shortly as approximately 1.5 million barrels (per day) of Iranian oil is “effectively going offline on November 4.”
“If the market senses that Saudi Arabia capacity is tapped out at 10.5 million barrels per day…oil prices will rocket higher with the flashy $100 per barrel price tag indeed a reasonable sounding target,” explained Innes.
With oil prices spiking, there are worries over their inflationary effect on demand growth, especially in Asia’s emerging markets where weakening currencies are also contributing to high fuel import costs. There are also the worries of trade disputes between the United States and other major economies, particularly China, and economic growth into 2019 could also be stunted.
Meanwhile, in Japan, business confidence among big manufacturers slid in the most recent quarter to its rock bottom in almost a year, as firms get affected from the rising raw material costs and as global trade conditions become worse.