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Oil Prices Sets Off Upon Red Sea Attack


A potential crisis is developing in a major international trade route, posing a threat to disrupt supply chains and contribute to increased oil prices and general inflation during a period of slow economic growth. On Tuesday (12/19), the price of oil increased by over a dollar per barrel, continuing the upward trend from the previous session. This followed attacks by Houthi militants aligned with Iran from Yemen on ships in the Red Sea, causing disturbances in maritime trade and leading numerous companies to redirect their vessels. Due to the recent increase in attacks on commercial ships by Houthi militants in Yemen, oil giant BP (BP) and four of the world's largest container shipping companies have decided to halt transit through the Red Sea, consequently requiring them to steer clear of the crucial Suez Canal as well. Moreover, oil prices experienced a nearly 2% increase on Monday (12/18) following an attack on a Norwegian-owned vessel, and BP (BP.L) declared a temporary halt to all transit through the Red Sea. The waterway that links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea facilitates approximately 10-15% of global trade and 30% of container trade. With ships already being redirected around the southern tip of Africa, a prolonged and effective closure of the Suez Canal is poised to escalate freight costs and extend delivery times. Henceforth, several other shipping companies have also issued comparable statements. 


Amidst escalating attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the oil market experienced heightened volatility. In response to a Norwegian-owned vessel's attack, oil giant BP declared a temporary halt to crude shipments through the impacted route, triggering a cautious response from rival Shell. While initial market changes were minimal, a 1% increase on Monday (12/18) and stable prices on Tuesday (12/19), concerns about potential supply disruptions and increasing geopolitical risks led to a subsequent surge in oil prices. Brent crude futures rose by US$1.28, or 1.6%, reaching US$79.23 a barrel, the highest level since December 1, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude increased by US$0.97, or 1.3%, reaching US$73.44 a barrel, marking the highest in over two weeks. The attacks, attributed to Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi militants, prompted various shipping companies to reroute vessels, impacting not only the oil market but also global trade, with 12% passing through the Red Sea. The situation remains fluid, leaving the market uncertain about the duration of disruptions and broader implications for supply chains and geopolitical stability. Rob Thummel, managing director at Kansas-based energy investment firm Tortoise Capital, notes that the events in the Red Sea are heightening geopolitical risk, causing oil prices to rise as traders assess the potential for a supply disruption linked to the escalating geopolitical tensions in the region.


The escalating tensions in the Red Sea and the subsequent disruptions to global trade routes are rippling through the economy. This escalation in oil prices may lead to higher prices for various goods and services, potentially contributing to a general increase in inflation. This development is particularly significant against the backdrop of a global economy already experiencing slow growth. Governments face the challenge of addressing the economic fallout from the disruptions in the Red Sea. The rise in oil prices prompted policymakers to reassess their economic strategies, particularly in managing inflation and ensuring energy security. Central banks may consider adjusting monetary policies to navigate the potential inflationary pressures from the oil market volatility. The uncertainty surrounding the duration and extent of the supply chain disruptions poses challenges for businesses and industries worldwide. Companies that rely heavily on timely and cost-effective transportation of goods face increased operational costs and longer delivery times. The broader implications for supply chains may result in a cascading effect on various sectors, potentially affecting employment, investments, and economic growth. In conclusion, the economic implications of the Red Sea disruptions extend beyond the oil market, affecting consumers, governments, and businesses globally. As the situation unfolds, policymakers and businesses must carefully navigate the challenges presented by the disruptions to ensure economic stability and resilience in the face of heightened geopolitical risks.


Sources:

BBC

CNN

Reuters


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