Oil at $125 Seen as Iraq Chaos Brings Price Swings: Opening Line

Brent crude rose as high as $113.28 a barrel in London this morning as Iraq struggles to contain civil war and dismemberment.

Iraqi forces killed 279 rebel fighters in the past 24 hours, the government said, amid reports and purported photographic evidence of Iraqis being executed by the Sunni militants attempting to carve the country up.

Or maybe “attempting” is being naive. Qubad Talabani, the son of Iraq President Jalal Talabani, told the Daily Beast yesterday Iraq is no longer a single country.

“Practically speaking, the country has broken apart,” he said. “Geographically we practically have to cross another country to get to Baghdad.”

Recriminations are flying, with Republicans in the U.S., who recently faulted Obama for moving too rashly in the prisoner swap that returned Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl now criticizing the president for moving too slowly in Iraq. Writing in the Telegraph, London Mayor Boris Johnson has “come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad” following assertions by Blair that the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq wasn’t to blame for the current problem and that it would have happened anyway.

With Iraq forecast to account for 60 percent of OPEC’s increased production by the end of the decade, the threat is already creating ripples that could turn into breakers.

The Sunni rebels have control of Iraq’s biggest refinery, a 310,000 barrel-per-day facility in Baiji in the north. If the rebels continue their advance and seize regions in the south, where three-quarters of Iraq crude output is, the world’s oil supply is going to find trouble, Mark Shenk reported over the weekend. Saudi Arabia can’t increase production enough to make up for all of what’s expected from Iraq.

“A disruption of Iraqi supply would represent a global energy crisis,” John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital, told Shenk. “This isn’t hyperbole.”

Evidently not. Because as Glen Carey and Deema Almashabi report today, this faction of al-Qaeda -- the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL -- is more potent than past versions.

The group has “territorial ambitions and is far more difficult to deal with than al-Qaeda,” Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center, told Carey and Almashabi. “These people are able to hold ground, they have army-like units, and they conduct terrorist attacks.”


Economic numbers today include U.S. Empire State manufacturing survey at 8:30 a.m. EDT, TIC flows at 9 a.m., industrial production and capacity utilization at 9:15 a.m., and the NAHB housing market index at 10 a.m. No earnings or annual meetings to speak of.

+ Ukraine’s natural-gas supply from Russia has been cut off after today’s expiration of the latest deadline for payments.

+ Israel has arrested scores of Palestinians, including senior officials, in the aftermath of the West Bank kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers that Netanyahu blames on Hamas, raising the issue of prisoner swaps again.

+ Siemens is preparing a competing bid for Alstom energy assets in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy.

+ Medtronic agreed to spend $42.9 billion to get access to $14 billion.

+ Williams Cos. agreed to buy Access Midstream Partners for $6 billion in cash.

+ Argentina’s appeal of a court order forcing it to pay billions to holders of defaulted bonds goes before the U.S. Supreme Court today, which could decide to hear the case, reject it or seek more information.

+ Iran’s nuclear ambitions return to the negotiating table starting today in Vienna with a “crucial” round of talks aiming to reach a long-term agreement before the short-term one expires July 20.

+ Russia left its one-week auction rate unchanged at 7.5 percent.

+ Islamist militants in Kenya rode into the coastal town of Mpeketoni in a couple of minivans last night and lit the place on fire while killing at least 48.

+ Juan Manuel Santos is re-elected president in Colombia. Alexander Stubb is elected Finland’s new prime minister. Results of Afghanistan’s presidential runoff vote over the weekend will start to emerge July.

+ Target Stores across the U.S. had some kind of malfunction in its checkout system over the weekend that the company says has nothing to do with security.

+ Michael Schumacher is out of his coma and out of the hospital.

+ The World Petroleum Congress begins in Moscow and runs through Thursday, June 19.

+ Bloomberg TV’s guests include Christine Lagarde at 10:45 a.m. EDT, former Defense Secretary William Cohen at 10 a.m., former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger at 2:10 p.m. and Kathy Ireland at 5 p.m.


Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is scheduled to speak to the press today at about 9 a.m. EDT. to discuss the controversial conversation between central bank Governor Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz that emerged over the weekend, and it should be pretty interesting, because his government may be on the line.

The conversation was disclosed on the website of the magazine Wprost, which said it was recorded in July and purports to reveal an agreement that the central bank would help buttress Poland’s economy --and Tusk’s wobbly government -- if necessary in exchange for the dismissal of Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski.

Rostowski was out by November 2013.

Tusk’s ruling Civic Platform party won election to the EU parliament in May by less than one percentage point, and that’s narrow enough to spark immediate calls from the opposition for Tusk’s ouster.

The central bank is responding with the old “taken out of context” defense as well as asserting that the tape was “manipulated.”

Was this illegal? Supposedly.

Is it surprising, not just in Poland, but anywhere?


JONATHAN KARL: “Well, what do you say to those Tea Party - - those groups claiming they represent the Tea Party, going after you, going after other Republican leaders? What contribution are those groups making?”

ERIC CANTOR: “Listen, there’s a lot of frustration out there. I have seen it. There’s frustration against this president. There’s a frustration against Washington, of not being able to stop this president when he says I’ve got a phone and a pen and I’m going to do what I want if you Republicans don’t agree with him. There is frustration. And one of the things that, you know, I want to remember, is Tea Party means taxed enough already. You know, these are moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers that got into the political debate and process back in 2009 after the lurch leftward, expansion of government with Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, cap and trade, stimulus and the rest.”



Is Comcast you’re Internet-service provider? Have one of their wireless routers? Then that’s going to make your house the Internet-service provider to your neighborhood, unless you opt out.

Comcast is flipping some switches to make the Internet access signal from your home’s wireless router accessible to Comcast customers in the public. Basically, your house will be a public hotspot.

What could go wrong? Remember the last time you had a problem with your router -- something blew up, or whatever?


Golf course properties’ values are rising, but participation in the sport is dwindling and after playing 18 holes, or nine of them, your back is probably in need of some therapy.

Which is why some course operators are expanding their horizons by putting resorts on golf courses instead of putting golf courses on resorts, Nadja Brandt finds today, or just outright housing developments.

Olympic-size swimming pools, tennis courts, hotels, restaurants, maybe a winery, a spa for that twisted back, or an outdoor amphitheater are among some of the attractions golf courses are adding to attract paying customers.

But admit it: It’s the hovercraft replacing the golf carts that makes you want to read the story.


Came across this video on the Web the other day. It was a cat video, of course. Not that cats themselves hold much attraction, but humor is always appreciated, regardless of the vehicle, so we clicked.

Pretty funny. Older cat is welcoming a kitten to the family through a very dry narration explaining ground rules and certain other realities of the home. It’s about three minutes long. The Friskies product placement showed up toward the end, but it didn’t really matter that it was ad.

Which is exactly what the advertising industry is banking on as it takes on the public’s apathy and, with the aide of digital-video recorders, actual hostility toward the interruptions. The result is short films, and they have a Cannes film festival all their own this week.

They’re thinking that better advertisements, better content, specifically, will make you want to watch them. Imagine that.


The market for fine art appears to be in fine shape as Art Basel begins this week in Switzerland. The descriptions and anecdotes in today’s story by Katya Kazakina read like the storyboards to an M. Night Shyamalan movie: It looks like the Earth we recognize, yet behind certain doors there’s a parallel universe.

The fair brings together 285 galleries from 34 countries selling $4 billion in artworks to an estimated throng of 86,000 people. Admission begins with the “first-choice” VIPs, or the 0.01 percent, followed by the regular 1 percent and the general public.

The value of art on sale at Basel has more than doubled in three years, Kazakina reports, quoting one art market pro saying, “If people want the best things, there’s not much negotiating.”

As if they’d need to.


A couple champions were crowned over the weekend. Last night San Antonio won its fifth NBA championship in 16 years, finishing off Miami in five games in a rematch of the 2013 finals. Unlike last year’s seven-game contest, this year wasn’t even close, with the Spurs winning by an average of 18 points.

In Los Angeles, the Kings won the Stanley Cup on Friday night in the fifth game of the finals with the New York Rangers, who reminded us it’s not the size of the dog in the fight.


This past weekend’s U.S. Open was a nail-biter.

For second place.

In one of the most boring U.S. Opens in recent memory, Martin Kaymer raced out of the starting gate and never relinquished what is for the U.S. Open a gaudy under-par score, finishing at 9 under. This follows his wire-to-wire win at The Players Championship.


Farewell to Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowl titles in six years over a 23-year run as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And goodbye as well to Casey Kasem, whose salty-sweet AM radio voice we still hear on Saturday afternoon replays of American Top 40 on the satellite radio 70s station. No more up-tempo lead-ins to worry about. Those stars ought to be within reach now.

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