Brent oil flirts with $90 on Middle East risk and supply concerns

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Vrasidas Neofytou
Head of Investment Research

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Brent oil flirts with $90 on Middle East risk and supply concerns

Both Brent and WTI crude oil prices rose as high as $89.50/b and $85/b respectively on Tuesday morning, nearing 6-month highs, driven by the escalating tension in the Middle East, the tighter oil supplies from OPEC+ and Mexico, the Russian refinery outages, and the resilient petroleum demand, especially from China, Europe, and the U.S.

Brent crude oil, Daily chart

Middle East tensions:

As the price of the Brent contract is flirting with $90/b, reaching the highest level since end-October 2023, energy investors are worried about the recent escalation of tensions in the Middle East, after an Israeli airstrike on Damascus, Syria, killed the leader of Iranian Revolutionary guard corps Mohammad Reza Zahedi, and other 3 QF generals.

The fatal Israeli strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria could heat the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East with the involvement of Iran. A widening of the conflict in the oil-rich region has sparked concerns about impacts on oil supply, as the possibility of Iran’s involvement could see its oil supply under threat.

Positive oil demand outlook:

Signs that petroleum demand may improve in China, Eurozone, and the U.S., the world's biggest oil-consuming regions, have also contributed to the recent rally in oil prices.

Analysts are now seeing a more optimistic demand outlook as the manufacturing activity in March in China expanded for the first time in six months and in the U.S. for the first time in 1-1/2 years.

The resurging manufacturing activity should translate to rising oil demand this year, as China is the world's largest crude importer and second-largest consumer while the U.S. is the biggest consumer.

Meanwhile, the European oil demand has been stronger than expected this year, which may help to drive up prices. The consumption in the region- the third largest consumer after the US and China- rose from a year earlier by an estimated 100,000 barrels a day to 13.7 million barrels a day in February.

Russian refinery outages:

Adding to the above bullish catalysts, the global fuel supplies have further tightened following Ukraine's recent attacks on Russian refineries. According to Reuters calculations, around 14% of Russia's refining capacity has been shut down by Ukraine’s drone attacks, and the country has banned gasoline exports for six months while increasing imports from neighboring Belarus in March to address possible fuel shortages.

In this context, Russian exports of clean products like gasoline and diesel are due to drop 30% to 1.2 million barrels per day in April, according to Reuters analysis of Kpler shipping data. (Source:

Unfortunately, rising crude oil and gasoline prices could hinder the U.S. and European governments’ fight against resilient inflation, as higher pump prices have already contributed to a solid jump in consumer and producer prices in February.

Mexico cuts some oil exports:

In another bullish factor for oil prices, the Mexican state-run oil company Pemex, cancelled contracts to supply refiners in the United States, Europe, and Asia with its flagship Maya crude over the next few months, diverting the oil supplies to domestic refiners.

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