Attacks on Syria Affects Oil Prices

on April 12, 2017 at 10:26 AM

Oil Fields In Northern Iraq Try To Reach Maximum Production capacity.The decision by the Trump Administration to launch missile strikes against Syria may affect oil markets. The Middle Eastern country broke international law established by the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions when it decided to use chemical weapons on rebels in the country – a banned form of artillery.

The true outcome hinges on the Russian and Iranian response to the strikes, and will determine whether the risk premium returns to benchmark oil prices.

After the U.S. attacked the Shayrat air base on Tuesday, crude oil futures jumped by nearly 2 percent. This airbase was one of six in Syria, which has led analysts to speculate that this attack was merely a show of power as opposed to the beginning of a military campaign.

The prolonging of this conflict with Syria is of particular interest to oil traders, as is the response of Iran and Russia. These countries are major oil producers and are closely allied with Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s President.

Some strategists have been quick to point out the change in the Trump Administration’s approach to Syria and Russia. Many believe this strategy flies in the face of his desire to rebuild relations with Russia. These are concerns that commodity traders are considering as they watch the market closely.

The initial bump in oil prices following the attack is demonstrative of the fear of conflict in the region – traders and analysts are concerned that any acceleration of struggle in the Middle East will restrict supplies further. Specifically, analysts are looking at the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf as a potential “choke point,” where if conflict occurs supply will be severely affected. But also of concern is the specific geopolitical actions that the Syrian government will take in response. These are considered high risk factors for traders as of this week.

If retaliation or action from the Syrian government does indeed manifest, this will be more than a temporary bump in price due to supply concerns. Rather, this presents the very real possibility of a new geopolitical risk premium being placed on the price of oil, resulting in further upward adjustment.

The original bump in prices was likely to be temporary – inventories globally are well-stocked, which should assuage the concerns of a disturbance in supply that inflated prices. So unless there are geopolitical concerns, many analysts perceive a small risk of supply disruption.

A strategist from UBS was quick to address the size of Syria’s oil contribution to the global market – they account for a small portion of what OPEC as a whole produces. Further, Syria has not major oil pipelines that could be targeted. He suggests that the rally will stop or even reverse, unless tensions between Russia, Iran, Iraq, and the U.S. heightens. Regardless, it is likely still too early to predict how the U.S.’s newfound involvement with Syria will play out.

Other commodity analysts, specifically at BNP Paribas, have echoed the notions that this attack was retaliatory rather than the indication of long-term involvement in Syria. Those who hold this view also perceive a shift back after the price rally ends.

Different still, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security has presented the possibility that this geopolitical risk is already imbedded in the price of oil. The headlines of instability have been consistent over the last decade, so these strategists see no reason to predict a change in the near future.

Reiterated constantly, however, was that it is simply too early to tell.