Oil prices post weekly gains amid rising Middle East tensions

Oil futures settled higher for the fifth straight session on Friday, with Brent and WTI prices booking strong weekly gains after escalating Middle East tensions contributed to a significant rise in crude-oil benchmark prices over the past week.

Price moves

  • West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery 


    gained 62 cents, or 0.8%, to settle at $76.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, with the contract advancing 6.3% for the week. It was the largest five-day percentage gain for the U.S. benchmark since Dec. 20, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

  • April Brent crude

     the global benchmark, was up 56 cents, or 0.7%, to finish at $82.19 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. For the week, the contract surged 6.3%, notching its best week since Jan. 26, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

  • March gasoline
     was down less than 1 cent, or 0.1%, to end at $2.3395 a gallon, but settling 8.9% higher for the week, while March heating oil 
     added 7 cents, or 2.5%, to finish at $2.9642 a gallon for a 11.4% weekly gain.

  • Natural gas for March delivery 
    fell by 7 cents, or 3.7%, to settle at $1.8470 per million British thermal units. The contract lost 11.2% for the week.

Market drivers

The Brent crude price continued to rise on Friday, settling above the $82-a-barrel threshold after advancing over 6% over the past five trading sessions as Israel launched new air strikes in Gaza while rejecting a Hamas offer for a cease-fire in the region and return of hostages held in Gaza.

Oil prices temporarily popped on tensions in the Middle East after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in early October, but prices have failed to break out of a range, as the conflict has not yet led to a big disruption of crude supplies. Both Brent and WTI traded well below 2023 highs set in late September, according to FactSet data.

However, the Brent’s moves back above the $80-per-barrel level could trigger “a bit of nervousness about inflationary pressures,” a team of Deutsche Bank strategists led by Jim Reid said in a Friday note to clients.

The annual rate of inflation in the fourth quarter, using seasonally adjusted numbers, was unchanged at 3.3% after the government’s annual revisions released on Friday morning. The update shows that price increases continue to slow toward prepandemic levels. However, the revisions lowered the monthly rate of headline inflation from December to 0.2% from 0.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Elsewhere, Ukraine launched drone attacks against two oil refineries in southern Russia on Friday, resulting in a massive fire at one of the facilities, Reuters reported on Friday.

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