Journal De Bruxelles - Oil, gas rocket to record levels on Ukraine conflict

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Oil, gas rocket to record levels on Ukraine conflict

Oil, gas rocket to record levels on Ukraine conflict

Oil prices soared Wednesday above $113 per barrel and natural gas hit a record peak, as investors fretted over key producer Russia's intensifying assault on Ukraine.

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European benchmark Brent North Sea oil struck $113.94 per barrel, the highest level since 2014, while New York-traded WTI hit a nine-year high of $112.51 as both posted day rises of almost 8 percent before dropping back slightly.

Gas prices also raced ahead, with European reference Dutch TTF hitting 194.715 euros per megawatt hour, an all-time high, before settling back to 168.77 euros, still up by a third.

British gas prices jumped as high as 463.84 pence per therm, close to the record 470.83 pence struck in December, on fresh fears of supply disruption.

Aluminium also spiralled upwards to hit a record high of $3,597 a tonne after Russia, a major producer of the industrial lightweight metal, launched a huge military assault on its neighbour.

Despite the growing fears of how much damage prolonged price rises can wreak on world economies already worrying over the telltale signs of runaway inflation, Saudi Arabia, Russia and other top oil producers meanwhile agreed only to a gradual opening of the taps.

At their meeting in Vienna, the 23 OPEC+ members decided merely to "reconfirm the production adjustment plan... to adjust upward the monthly overall production by 0.4 million barrels per day for the month of April."

Analysts sought to paint a wider picture as the Ukraine crisis showed no sign of ending.

"It is far too soon to say how this will end. The range of possible outcomes remains huge. We may be in the early days of a long process of restructuring the global order," said Neil Shearing, group chief economist with Capital Economics.

Predicting the conflict could hit the Russian economy to the extent it falls from being the world’s 11th largest economy to 14th he added that "tells us little about how the conflict might affect the global economy over the long run".

But he added it would most likely concentrate governments' minds on the need to upgrade energy security and, at least in Europe, accelerate their transition away from fossil fuels.

Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB, noted that "the global economy is facing energy starvation right now," while adding that "demand destruction will set a limit to the upside eventually," given the tightening of the physical oil market owing to sanctions towards Russia.

US President Joe Biden had earlier in the week 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.

- 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."

Despite the movement on energy prices, major world stock markets were largely in the green with Wall Street adding one percent shortly after opening while London and Paris posted modest gains with Frankfurt down just two hours from the close.

- Rippling anxiety -

Earlier Wednesday, Asian equities sank with investors increasingly anxious about the Ukraine war's knock-on impact on inflation and the fragile economic recovery from the Covid pandemic.

"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.

- Key figures around 1500 GMT -

Brent North Sea crude: UP 5.2 percent at $110.43 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 6.2 percent at $1111.50 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.0 percent 33,608.45

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.3 percent at 7,423.07 points

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.6 percent at 13,904.53

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.0 percent at 6,461.88

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.8 percent at 3,797.08

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))

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1094 from $1.1125 late Tuesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3337 from $1.3325

Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.17 pence from 83.49 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 115.50 yen from 114.92 yen

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P.Claes--JdB