Oil nears $100 a barrel amidst Russia-Ukraine tensions


Jason Ryan, Staff

Header Image: Financial Times

On Monday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered forces into two regions of Eastern Ukraine. The rising tensions have sent jitters through markets. Oil, natural-gas and agricultural prices rose as pressures threatened to disrupt flows of natural resources from Eastern Europe to world markets.

Russia was the largest supplier of natural gas and oil to the European Union last year, and one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, accounting for 17 percent of the world’s natural gas and 12 percent of its oil. These tensions are contributing to increases in oil prices.

Crude prices recently crossed $90 per barrel, representing an increase of more than 20 percent this year and a pickup of more than 80 percent since the beginning of 2021. These gains, however, can also be credited to other factors such as tight supply. For instance demand for oil has surged since the early pandemic lows. Production, however, has not kept pace.

Moreover, U.S. crude surged more than three percent at one point to a high of $96. The contract ended the session 1.4 percent higher at $92.35 per barrel. Brent traded as high as $99.50, before settling at $96.84 per barrel for a gain of 1.52 percent.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 ended the day down one percent to its lowest closing level since late 2021, led lower by energy and consumer discretionary stocks. The decline on Tuesday brought the index into a correction, or 10 percent below its recent peak in January. Surging oil prices will benefit oil producers, but those producers will raise costs for everyone else. This will certainly depress economic activity, as consumers and companies alike respond to higher prices by cutting back. Gasoline prices in the U.S. are averaging more than $3.50 a gallon, the highest average since 2014. If crude prices should rise higher, gasoline prices would almost certainly climb more.The biggest burden for Americans would fall on lower-income families, since they spend a larger percentage of their household budget on gasoline (American Council for Energy Efficient Economy). In addition, rising natural gas prices could raise electricity and home heating bills. The increasing costs for transportation, power and heat would all contribute to inflation, which is already at its highest rate in 40 years in the U.S., though there is debate about how long the impact would be. All and all, it is clear that any rise in oil prices will affect the world markets in a negative manner.

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