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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Oil prices surged on Friday after a US airstrike in Baghdad killed one of Iran’s top military commanders, triggering the first big shock to global energy markets of 2020.
Crude oil jumped by more than 4 percent in early trade after an air strike at Baghdad Airport early Friday killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil rose by the most since the Sept.16, 2019 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil processing facility. Gold rose 1 percent on Friday morning while US futures were down by the same measure.
“We are only into the third day of the new year, and a big fat dollop of geopolitical uncertainty has landed on investors desks already this morning,” said Jeffery Halley, senior currency analyst at OANDA. “My first thoughts are that Commander Soleimani was a very big cheese in the Iranian hierarchy, and I am struggling to see how an Iranian riposte will not occur.”
Iraq’s Oil Ministry confirmed that some US citizens employed by international oil companies in Basra were leaving the country, adding that oilfields were operating normally.
Gulf bourses were closed for the weekend as traders digested the news and the focus turned to the security of shipping in the Gulf.
“We expect moderate to low level clashes to last for at least a month and likely be confined to Iraq,” Eurasia’s Iran analyst, Henry Rome, told Reuters. “Iran will also likely resume harassment of commercial shipping in the Gulf and may launch military exercises to temporarily disrupt shipping,” he said.
“With further escalation remaining a distinct possibility, we could see markets retain at least some risk premium,” JBC Energy said in a research note.
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