Oil prices and conflict in the Middle East: volatility eases, but gas prices are up


Gaza conflict and and oil and gas prices
Gaza conflict and and oil and gas prices

As the war between Israel and Hamas enters the sixth day, the oil markets appear to have found the stability with the volatility that we witnessed at the outset being on the wane.

As of 10:50 GMT, the prices of WTI, Brent and LNG, liquified natural gas, were at $84.29, $86.89 and $3.34 respectively.

Although there was a false alarm over the prospect of opening a second front on Israel's northern border against Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, the situation in that particular region remains tense. Israel admitted the accumulation of red alerts on its monitoring screen was due to a human or technical error.

False alarm over oncoming drones from Lebonon
The technical glitch: arrival of drones from Lebanon - credit: The Times of Israel

Military analysts, meanwhile,  believe the arrival of the flotilla of US warships, including the world's largest ship of that kind, Gerald R Ford - a military city rather than a ship - closer to the northern border may deter the involvement of other regional foes of Israel in the conflict. The ship, along with six destroyers, are currently at a safer distance from Israel's northern shores.

The conflict, in its current from, may not spill over into regions beyond the Gaza strip and in this context, the impact on oil prices remains insignificant as neither Israel nor the Gaza strip is contributing to the supply side of the oil equation.

A prolonged military conflict, however, can result in a situation where insurance premium and shipping costs can go up due to multiple uncertainties. Understandably, the oil companies will pass the cost on to the consumers in the end. 

In this context, the significant US presence in the region appears to have a secondary goal in sight, in addition to providing Israel with a cast-iron guarantee on its security - not to disrupt the flow of crude oil from the Middle East.

Commodity analysts, meanwhile, are watching the flow of Iranian oil into the markets: at present, Iran cannot sell its oil in the international markets by legitimate means due to heavy Western sanctions; it, however, still producers oil at an ever-increasing rate that in turn find some buyers in the international markets - according to Iran's own admission.

As for the war, Iran denies any involvement, despite being a main backer of Hamas; the US, meanwhile, says there is no evidence to determine otherwise. On Wednesday, Ibrahim Raisi, the Iranian president spoke to Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia over the conflict - the first of such a conversation between the leaders at top level since 2016. 

Only last week in a speech, did Mr Raisi prophesize that the expected normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel would collapse; it may not have collapsed in its entirety, but suffered a serious setback, leaving its main sponsor, the US, in a diplomatic lurch. 

Iran's displeasure over the warming ties between the Arab nations and the Jewish state is well known and its public stance over the issue was quickly seized by Iran's enemies to point a finger at Iran over the issue - despite the absence of any hard evidence. 

With regard to the price of natural gas, however, the effect is palpably worrying: Israel is a major gas producer and its clients are in Europe and Asia. The price of LNG, liquified natural gas, has gone up substantially in the last few days.

Natural gas price fluctuations due to war
Natural gas price fluctuations due to war

In addition, autumn has set in in the norther hemisphere and the demand for natural gas can only go up in the next few months. With the evolving worries over the supply in the absence of Russian gas, the prices may go up even further, causing a significant impact on the global economy. 

In conclusion, the investors in the energy markets are closely watching the evolving military conflict in the Middle East, hoping it would not shake their foundations to a seismic level. 

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