Oil rockets to $113, gas hits record on Ukraine conflict
Oil prices soared Wednesday above $113 per barrel and natural gas spiked to a record peak, as investors fretted over key producer Russia’s intensifying assault on Ukraine.
European benchmark Brent North Sea oil struck $113.02 per barrel, the highest level since 2014, while New York-traded WTI hit a 2013 peak at $111.50.
Later Wednesday, traders will digest a meeting of OPEC and other major producers, including Russia, who will discuss whether to ramp up output to temper spiking prices that fan inflation.
President Joe Biden said that the United States would join a 30-country deal to release 60 million oil barrels to help temper the surge in crude prices, though analysts have warned such moves would have a limited impact.
“The war in Ukraine that Russia is waging with increasing severity is causing oil prices to skyrocket,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.
Europe’s stock markets however rallied, despite earlier Asian losses, as energy majors won a shot in the arm from crude oil.
Added to the picture, Europe’s reference Dutch TTF gas price rocketed by around 50 percent to forge an all-time record 194.715 euros per megawatt hour.
UK gas prices jumped to 463.84 pence per therm, close to the record 470.83 pence attained in December.
– Energy ‘seriously rattled’ –
“Energy markets are seriously rattled, with gas prices also spiking,” ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada told AFP.
“The big fear is the prospect of (a) Western import ban on Russian oil and gas — or retaliation from Russia in cutting its energy exports to Europe.”
Russia is one of the world’s biggest producers of natural gas and oil, and is a major exporter of other key commodities including aluminium.
The price of aluminium, used in a variety of items including drinks cans and aircraft components, hurtled to an all-time peak of $3,552 per tonne on Wednesday.
Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s biggest producers of corn and wheat, which both soared to historic heights on Wednesday too.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of its neighbour has sparked sharp swings across global markets over the past week, while Western sanctions prompted a dramatic collapse in the ruble.
– Rippling anxiety –
Elsewhere, Asian equities sank with investors increasingly anxious about the Ukraine war’s knock-on impact on runaway inflation and the fragile economic recovery from Covid.
“Anxiety is again rippling through global financial markets… as the Ukraine conflict ratchets up inflationary pressures and threatens to derail global growth,” noted Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter.
The crisis has seen numerous countries hammer Moscow with a series of wide-ranging sanctions that have isolated Russia and threaten to crash its economy.
But the main source of unease on trading floors is crude, which has rocketed since Russia began preparing to invade.
The conflict in eastern Europe comes with oil prices already elevated owing to tight supplies and a strong recovery in global demand as economies reopen from pandemic-induced lockdowns, fuelling inflation around the world.
Eurozone inflation soared in February to a new record high of 5.8 percent mainly on the back of surging energy prices, the EU’s official statistics agency Eurostat said Wednesday.
– Key figures around 1145 GMT –
Brent North Sea crude: UP 5.2 percent at $110.43 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: UP 4.7 percent at $108.27 per barrel
London – FTSE 100: UP 1.0 percent at 7,403.55 points
Frankfurt – DAX: UP 0.6 percent at 13,981.28
Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.8 percent at 6,447.74
EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.0 percent at 3,804.52
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.7 percent at 26,393.03 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.8 percent at 22,343.92 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,484.19 (close)
New York – Dow: DOWN 1.8 percent 33,294.95 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1101 from $1.1125 late Tuesday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3319 from $1.3325
Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.33 pence from 83.49 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 115.24 yen from 114.92 yen