Tags: Iran | Tensions | Gasoline | Prices

Iran Tensions Pushing Gasoline Prices Even Higher

Friday, 24 Feb 2012 08:51 AM

What’s driving gasoline prices higher? Almost certainly it’s the rumblings around the Strait of Hormuz and the ongoing war of words with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, energy experts say. The usual suspects — higher demand coupled with falling supply, or a suddenly weakening U.S. dollar — just don’t add up at the moment.

Production is high, so high that the United States exports gasoline it doesn’t need. Calls to open the national oil reserves likely won’t be heeded, nor needed.

And while the economy is gaining traction, demand is still at a decade low thanks to the glacially slow economic recovery. Oil closed Thursday at $108.06 a barrel. Nationwide, gas prices are at $3.59 on average, according to nationwide gas price tracker GasBuddy.com.

Editor's Note: Wall Street Insider Exposes Death of Main Street America

Meanwhile, foreign production is more than adequate to meet global demand, analysts say. "The market right now is fairly well supplied," John Kingston, director of oil at analytics firm Platts told CNNMoney. "You've just got a significant fear factor that things could get worse."

Tensions with Iran are adding at least 30 cents to a gallon of gasoline in the United States, CNNMoney reports.

Iranian production isn't huge in terms of the total picture, at 2.2 million barrels a day on daily demand close to 90 million barrels. But it could harass or block oil coming to market through the strait and that would stop 17 million barrels a day, leaving it to sit in tanker ships at sea or simply not leave ports.

Some analysts say that action in the Middle East, say a strike by Israel, would quickly push oil up to $150 and gas over $5. Even if nothing happens, tensions alone have fed speculation, pushing futures prices up at nearly triple the rate that pump prices have risen.

Unleaded gasoline futures have put on a nearly perfect 45 degree angle climb since Christmas to hit $3.29 in floor trading of the April contract. Light crude is trading at $108 a barrel for April.

The last time gas poked above $4 was the summer of 2008. Once it become clear that the U.S. Federal Reserve would print trillions of dollars to blunt the impact of the growing credit crisis, investors dumped greenbacks in advance. Since oil is priced in U.S. dollars, the barrel price zoomed higher to compensate.

Then the country plunged into the depths of the Great Recession and the oil price sank, falling from above $140 a barrel all the way down to $32 in just six months.

While there has been a second round of Fed easing since and could be a third, the dollar has held up pretty well, trading at 78 on the U.S. Dollar Index, which shows the greenback’s relative strength against a basket of foreign currencies. The buck bottomed at 70 during the early part of the credit crunch and traded up to 90 by the time the recession officially ended in middle of 2009. Right now, the dollar sits on the high end of its 52-week range.

What’s left is fear of a sudden cut in supply, say oil traders, and that alone could cause the price of crude to spike much higher just as the summer driving season kicks in and demand rises with it.

"Speculation is now part of the DNA of oil prices. You cannot separate the two anymore. There is no demarcation," Oppenheimer analyst Fadel Gheit told the Seattle Times. "I still remain convinced oil prices are inflated."

Inflated or not, a quick run-up in oil would wreak havoc with what has been so far a tentative recovery. Europe is on the edge of its second recession in three years, and Chinese officials are bracing for a slowdown in property markets that could spread to the larger economy.

Of course, if Europe slows, so do its imports from China. That would leave the United States to drive global growth, not a sure bet if gas prices climb higher still.

“High gasoline prices, be they here in the United States or in Europe or in China, for that matter, will certainly slow and potentially tip the globe back into recession," energy analyst Stephen Schork told CBS News.

Editor's Note: Wall Street Insider Exposes Death of Main Street America

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2012-51-24
Friday, 24 Feb 2012 08:51 AM
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