Oil prices jump again on Russia-Ukraine fears, as IEA calls for cut in energy usage

Gas prices in Westchester are above six dollars as prices at the pump continue to rise across the Southland on Sunday, March 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA.
Jason Armond | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Oil prices jumped even higher on Monday after Russia-Ukraine talks appeared to yield no sign of progress, and markets continued to fret over tight supply — sparking a call by the International Energy Agency to reduce oil demand.

Crude futures were up as much as 3% on Monday morning during Asia trading — international benchmark Brent crude was at $110.81, and U.S. futures at $107.68.

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Oil prices have been volatile in recent weeks – soaring to record highs in March before tumbling more than 20% last week to touch below $100. They jumped again in the latter half of last week to rise above that level.

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In a note on Monday, Mizuho Bank said two factors were pushing oil prices higher: lingering Russia-Ukraine uncertainty as well as hopes that China’s latest Covid impact could be less dire than expected amid expectations of easing restrictions.

Ukrainian and Russian officials have met intermittently for peace talks, which have so far failed to progress to key concessions. Still, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy has called for another round of talks with Moscow.

“If these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third world war,” Zelenskyy told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that aired Sunday morning.

“The breakdown of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine saw crude oil prices extend their rebound on Friday,” ANZ Research analysts Brian Martin and Daniel Hynes wrote in a Monday note. “However, it failed to offset the losses earlier in the week, with Brent crude ending down more than 4%.”

The industry’s apparent inability to fill any potential gap has seen calls for consumption to be reduced.
Brian Martin and Daniel Hynes
ANZ Research

Meanwhile, tight supply continued to worry markets, sparking a call by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Friday for “emergency measures” to reduce oil usage.

The Russia-Ukraine war has led to worries over supply disruptions as a result of U.S. sanctions on Russian oil and gas. The U.K. and European Union also said they would phase out Russian fossil fuels. Russia supplied 11% of global oil consumption and 17% of global gas consumption in 2021, and as much as 40% of Western European gas consumption in the same period, according to statistics from Goldman Sachs.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia warned Monday that oil prices have fallen below recent peaks because markets are still largely pricing oil by “assessing the likelihood of a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict.”

“Physical shortages, linked to current sanctions on Russia, though will eventually play a more dominant role in oil price determination,” said Vivek Dhar, the bank’s director of energy commodities research, in a note.

“The industry’s apparent inability to fill any potential gap has seen calls for consumption to be reduced,” the ANZ Research analysts said.

In a 10-point plan, the IEA’s suggestions to reduce oil demand included reducing speed limits for vehicles, working from home for up to three days a week, and avoiding air travel for business.

“We estimate that the full implementation of these measures in advanced economies alone can cut oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within the next four months, relative to current levels,” the IEA said Friday.

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