Brent Slide Leads Energy Prices Lower After Iran AccordGrant Smith and Ben Sharples
Brent crude led energy prices from gasoline to heating oil lower after Iran and world powers reached an interim accord on the country’s nuclear program that will ease economic sanctions while keeping a cap on oil sales.
Futures slid as much as 2.7 percent in London, declining for the first time in four days, while West Texas Intermediate fell 1.7 percent. Iran’s crude exports will be held to about 1 million barrels a day under sanctions that remain in force after the deal announced yesterday in Geneva, according to the White House. Gasoline and heating oil futures each slid at least 2.3 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
“We’re seeing both sides come one step closer to each other,” said Andy Sommer, a senior oil analyst at Axpo Trading AG in Dietikon, Switzerland. “The deal doesn’t have a direct impact on oil exports, but there’s still good reason to think a solution is on the horizon in terms of oil. The risk premium has declined.”
Brent for January settlement decreased as much as $3 to $108.05 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, the biggest intraday loss since Nov. 1. It was at $109.34 as of 1:31 p.m. London time. The contract advanced 97 cents to $111.05 on Nov. 22, the highest close since Oct. 11.
WTI for January delivery fell as much as $1.59 to $93.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract was at a discount of $15.68 to Brent. It closed at $16.21 on Nov. 22, the widest gap based on settlement prices since March 14.
The six-month agreement, which offers Iran about $7 billion in relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, leaves in place banking and financial measures that have hampered its crude exports.
Brent, the benchmark for half the world’s crude, rose the most in almost two weeks on Nov. 8 after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry downplayed the chances of a nuclear accord. The deal was reached yesterday after foreign ministers from the U.S., Europe, China and Russia made unscheduled trips to Geneva to push the third round of talks in six weeks to a conclusion.
Gasoline futures fell to as low as $2.6598 a gallon on the Nymex, while heating oil contracts dropped to $2.9701. Gasoil in London slid 2.1 percent to $918.50 a metric ton. Natural gas futures were the only major energy contract to rise today, advancing as much as 2.2 percent to $3.849 per million British thermal units in New York amid forecasts for below-normal temperatures in the U.S.
“There’s still a long way to go, but with each of these steps we should see some sort of response to the risk premium,” said Ric Spooner, a chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “The bigger thing for the oil market in terms of the impact on prices is the longer view that this represents a tangible step toward a more final solution that might ultimately see the sanctions lifted altogether.”
Thomas Cook Group Plc and Air France-KLM Group led a gauge of travel stocks higher as oil prices fell after the accord with Iran. Shares of major oil-producing companies were the only component of Europe’s benchmark Stoxx 600 to decline, with BG Group Plc and BP Plc driving the segment lower.
The economic constraints have cut Iranian oil sales by 60 percent since the start of 2012, depriving the country of more than $80 billion in revenue, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration said in a statement.
“The volume of Iranian crude oil available to the international market will remain largely unchanged over at least the next six months,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicted in a report published today. Morgan Stanley said in a note that any “substantial weakness” in prices following yesterday’s announcement of a deal would be an “over-reaction.”
Sanctions remain on sales of Iranian refined products, while Iran gains access to $4.2 billion in oil revenue frozen in foreign banks, the White House said. As part of the accord, the European Union will lift a ban on insurance for tankers transporting Iranian oil, making it easier for the Persian Gulf nation’s six remaining customers to take delivery. The EU will continue to prohibit crude imports from Iran.
Officials from Indian Oil Corp., Hindustan Petroleum Corp. and Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. said the removal of restrictions on shipping cover will enable them to purchase contracted volumes more easily. Still, they said they don’t intend to buy more than previously planned.
Loosened sanctions on insurance will let Iran raise exports by nearly 300,000 barrels a day from last month’s level and may put “downward pressure” on Brent, Olivier Jakob, managing director of consultant Petromatrix GmbH, said yesterday.
Imports from Iran fell to 715,000 barrels a day in October, compared with 1.26 million in the previous month, the International Energy Agency said in a Nov. 14 market report. Shipments from the country still averaged 1.1 million barrels a day in the first nine months of this year, according to the IEA.
“Oil prices will remain under pressure for the foreseeable future,” Jonathan Barratt, the chief executive officer of Barratt’s Bulletin in Sydney, said in a Bloomberg television interview. “First of all, I think there will be a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction.”
The accord with Iran is a “historic mistake,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday. Obama called Netanyahu before departing to the U.S. West Coast in an effort to prevent the agreement from opening a rift between the two nations.
“While Israel and the Saudis won’t be happy, the oil bears will,” Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago, said by e-mail today.