Oil prices jump 6% on Trump's threat after Iran downs spy drone

Oil prices jump 6% on Trump's threat after Iran downs spy drone

oil prices
File photo of section of an oil platform in the North Sea, around 160 kilometres east of Aberdeen, Scotland. (Photo: AFP/POOL/ANDY BUCHANAN)

LONDON: World oil prices spiked more than six per cent on Thursday (Jun 20) on US President Donald Trump's warning that Iran had made "a very big mistake" after it boasted of downing a US spy drone.

The developments accelerated day-on-day gains in US oil benchmark WTI in late New York morning trading.

Europe's Brent Crude rose by nearly five per cent at one point, before both contracts pulled back somewhat.

Iran shot down the drone near the Strait of Hormuz, a major choke point for world crude shipments, spurring market fears of a confrontation that could badly constrain supplies.

Further solid support for oil prices, as for global stock markets, also came from the US Federal Reserve signalling it could soon cut interest rates, while the dollar and US Treasury yields fell.

READ: Fed sees case building for interest rate cuts this year

The Bank of England, leaving key interest rates unchanged, warned against the rising danger of a no-deal Brexit, which analysts took as a sign that it, too, seems ready to take a more accommodating stance.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday they had shot down a US "spy drone" which violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, in the latest incident to stoke tension in the area. 

The US later confirmed a US surveillance drone designed for high-altitude missions was brought down by Iranian forces, but insisted it was in international airspace.

"This will only stoke tensions in the region and produce short-term support for oil prices," said analyst Neil Wilson at trading site Markets.com.

Crude had ended slightly down on Wednesday despite a drop in US inventories - indicating a pick-up in demand - and news that OPEC and other producers led by Russia had agreed a date to discuss further caps.

WORSENING TENSIONS

The drone incident comes amid worsening tensions between Iran and the United States.

The US has accused Iran of being behind a series of operations against oil tankers in highly sensitive Gulf waters, including two tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week.

Tehran has denied involvement. It has floated the possibility Washington could be the author of the attacks, using the operation to justify force against Iran.

"We know that geopolitical tensions in the region are worsening and raise supply-side concerns in terms of short-term outages," said analyst Wilson.

"But with OPEC already curbing output and US production at a record high, we still think the market is far less susceptible to a shock than in years gone by."

Traders were also jolted on Thursday by news that a Yemeni rebel strike targeted a desalination plant in the southwestern Saudi province of Jizan.

FED SPURS MARKETS HIGHER

Global equities were meanwhile spurred higher after Fed boss Jerome Powell said bank officials felt the case for a rate reduction had "strengthened", citing the trade standoff with China and weak inflation, adding it would "act as appropriate" to support growth.

The bank also dropped the word "patient" in describing its assessment of economic data, fuelling speculation of a reduction as soon as July.

The dollar was down against the euro, which had itself been under pressure since the European Central Bank on Tuesday hinted at rate cuts of its own.

The Bank of England, meanwhile, said on Thursday that "the perceived likelihood of a no-deal Brexit has risen", compounding global concerns about increased trade tensions.

"The fact that Bank of England policymakers are flagging that the perceived risk of a 'no deal' Brexit is rising suggests that interest rates are unlikely to rise this year," said James Smith, an economist at ING.

"The latest statement is slightly more dovish than might have been expected," he said.

The softer outlook for UK rates caused the pound to pull back from its early highs.

Key figures around 1555 GMT:

Brent North Sea oil: UP US$2.37 at US$64.19 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP US$2.82 at US$56.89 per barrel

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 per cent at 7,424.44 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 per cent at 12,355.39 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 per cent at 5,535.57 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 per cent at 3,468.08

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 per cent at 21,462.86 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.3 per cent at 28,550.43 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 2.4 pe rcent at 2,987.12 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1279 from US$1.1226 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.2697 from US$1.2639

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.54 yen from 108.10 yen

Source: AFP/de

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