NEW YORK: Brent crude jumped to a six-month high near $114 a barrel yesterday amid reports that Western powers were readying a military strike against Syria to punish it for a poison gas attack.
Both Brent and US crude gained upwards of $3 a barrel as tensions climbed in Syria. Western intervention there could lead to a wider conflict in the volatile Middle East, which pumps a third of the world’s oil.
Western officials told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar Al Assad’s forces within days, according to sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.
US President Barack Obama has not made a decision to order military strikes against the Syrian government in response to last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus, a senior administration official said, echoing White House comments the previous day.
Oil market watchers pointed to signs that Washington and its allies are edging toward a limited use of force against Syrian Assad’s loyalists.
“As the rhetoric ratchets up around Syria the geopolitical risk premium in the price of oil is once again widening,” Dominick Chirichella of Energy Management Institute said.
Brent crude rose $3.21 to $113.94 a barrel. During the session it hit a six-month high of $113.98, and appeared headed for its biggest daily percentage gain since early May.
US crude rose was up $3.15 to $109.07 a barrel, after falling 0.5 percent the previous day when data showed US durable goods orders had dropped the most in nearly a year.
“There’s a lot of air in this market, and it’s now hungry for the next headline,” said Stephen Schork, the editor of The Schork Report in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “So if we see more belligerent rhetoric, like Kerry’s ‘moral obscenity,’ we’re due for another leg up and you can’t really sell.”