Oil Prices Volatile as Investors Gauge Dispute Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

04-Jan-2016

LONDON — Oil prices rose sharply on Monday before reversing course amid a growing sectarian conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The friction between the Iranian and Saudi leaderships comes as a reminder that despite the sharp fall in oil prices over the past two years in response to rising global supplies and the industrial world’s search for cleaner energy sources, the Middle East, which produces almost a third of the world’s crude, remains dangerously volatile.

“What is coming back to the surface is how deeply divided and complex the Middle East is at present,” said Richard Mallinson, an analyst at Energy Aspects, a market research firm in London.

Brent crude, the main international benchmark, was up more as much as 4 percent in Europe on Monday, but by midday in New York had given back those gains and dipped into negative territory — to $37.11, or off by about 0.46 percent.

Analysts said that traders who had been betting on further oil price declines were probably now debating whether those bets were too risky. Actions like the Saudi expulsion of Iranian diplomats and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by Iranian protesters encourage people “to consider closing positions and taking profits,” Mr. Mallinson said. (by STANLEY REED, New York Times)