Iran's Currency Collapse Has All the Markings of a Full-Blown Crisis
Matters are beginning to come to a head in Iran.
So far, the impact of Western sanctions - an EU embargo of oil purchases, European and U.S. restrictions on Tehran's access to international banking, and a new move to intensify the trading restrictions even further - have had a devastating impact.
Iran's currency, the rial, has collapsed.
Riots have begun. Its government has rapidly lost its authority. And the Iranian economy is unraveling.
This has all the markings of a full-blown crisis.
It will have an uncertain impact on the region and the wider oil market. This could get very unpredictable and very nasty.
Let me explain...
Sanctions Paralyze Iran's EconomyIndications are emerging from several quarters that the current sanctions regime has dealt a major blow to the Iranian currency. The developments are prompting foreign initiatives to paralyze the regime in Tehran.
"The current perception is that the sanctions may have to be increased before Tehran will show clear signs of relenting," a source in the EU Energy Commissioner's office told me on October 6.
Still, it remains too early to determine how far EU members are prepared to go in strengthening anti-trade restrictions.
Nonetheless, several policy sources in Brussels, London, and Paris, confirmed last week that a rising consensus believes something additional is warranted.
A complete EU embargo of Iranian oil imports took effect on July 1. That action had widely been expected to put upward pressure on Brent prices in London. While some of that pressure has materialized, continuing demand concerns from the ongoing credit crisis and sluggish employment data have dampened the impact.
Still, a widening of the rift with Iran, coupled with the deteriorating situation on the Syrian-Turkish border, is certain to bring the problem to center stage.
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The Challenge in the Persian Gulf with Iran Looms Large
My meetings and media interviews continue here in London. But this morning I want to fill you in on one of the more interesting briefings I have ever held.
Last night, Marina and I had the distinct pleasure of dining with Khaled Duwaisan, Kuwait's Ambassador to the Court of St. James and the longest-serving foreign emissary in London.
His Excellency is a very gracious man, well respected by his peers, and, after more than two decades in London, certainly somebody who has seen much come and go in his time.
Our discussions centered on the situation presented by Iran in the Persian Gulf and the current crisis there.
Also attending the dinner and long discussion were the ambassadors from every other Gulf Coordination Council nation in the region and the legal representative of the Iranians (who currently have no official diplomatic connection with the United Kingdom).
Now, as with such sessions, all of the conversations were held under Chatham House rules. That means, while general themes can be discussed, all participants agree not to connect named people with specific positions in commenting on the meeting afterwards.
This was one of the more memorable sessions I have ever had. It was striking how articulately and passionately the delegates addressed the subject.
The overwhelming response to my comments could be summarized in two ways: the rejection of a nuclear-armed Iran and a strong opinion that the region must settle its affairs on its own.
The first conclusion is certainly shared by the West, but the second may well be difficult to achieve in practice. The prospect of Iran with nuclear capability is hardly a matter Washington, or London, or Brussels will allow the region to decide on its own.
The gathering certainly understood that. These are, after all, seasoned diplomats well-schooled in the protocols and realities of international politics. But they are also experienced in the affairs of a region with the longest and most intricate negotiating traditions on the face of the earth.
They also have a perspective honed from several thousand years of history, tradition, and conflict. There was present a quality I rarely experience in my international meetings -- patience.
However, one other matter quickly surfaced that was unanimously viewed as a major element in the ongoing conflict. The assembled representatives spoke about it candidly and directly.
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All You Need to Know About Iran, $200 Oil, and $6.00 Gas
If you're unsettled by the thought of gasoline at $4.00 a gallon, brace yourself.
With tensions between Iran and the West quickly escalating, we could see gas jump to $6.00 a gallon at the pump in a matter of months.
Make no mistake about it: If Iran were to follow through on its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, oil prices would surge as high as $200 a barrel in matter of days.
But that's just the beginning...
A wider Iranian war could throw the entire region into chaos -- making $100 oil seem like a bargain.
None of this is hyperbole. In fact, these dangers are likely according to of one of world's leading energy analysts, Dr. Kent Moors.
Dr. Moors is an advisor to six of the world's top 10 oil companies, including natural gas producers throughout Russia, the Caspian Basin, the Persian Gulf and North Africa. He also consults for high-level officials from the U.S., Russian, Kazakh, Bahamian, Iraqi and Kurdish governments on all things energy related.
In short, Kent's insights are invaluable.
That's why we've given Dr. Moors a chance to address all of the concerns swirling around the energy market today.
In the interview that follows you'll learn what you really need to know about Iran, the global oil market, and most importantly, what you can do to profit...
Dr. Kent Moors on the Brewing Crisis in the GulfQ) Dr. Moors, how serious are the recent developments in Iran?
Moors: This is the most serious U.S.-Iranian crisis since the fall of the Shah in 1979. There's a very dangerous situation inside Iran that is only being accentuated by the oil market problems that have resulted from Western sanctions.
First off, on the Strait of Hormuz: This is the most significant oil choke point in the world. Some 35% of the world's seaborne oil shipments and at least 18% of daily global crude shipments pass through this narrow channel in the Persian Gulf. And while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy is not large enough to blockade the Strait of Hormuz for any length of time, it could disrupt traffic.
Q) What effect would closing the Straits of Hormuz have on oil and gas prices?
Moors: Closing the strait would result in a rise in crude oil prices of between $20 and $40 a barrel in a matter of hours. Any interruption beyond 72 hours would push prices to between $150 and $200 a barrel.
As far as gas prices are concerned, the basic rule of thumb is that each $1.00 rise in a barrel of oil results in a 3.2-cent rise in a gallon of gasoline. So $200 oil would equal $6.00-plus gasoline.
Q) Why is this crisis unfolding right now?
Moors: Three major elements are causing Iran to become belligerent:
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Prepare for Iran's Energy Market Chaos with the United States Oil Fund LP (NYSE: USO)
Iran kicked off the New Year with aggressive messages for the Western world, setting the stage for heightened political tensions and a huge oil price push in 2012.
Oil futures finished at their highest level in eight months yesterday (Tuesday), with West Texas Intermediate crude jumping 4.2% to settle at $102.96 a barrel on the on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).
The surge came after Iran warned a U.S. aircraft carrier to stay out of the Persian Gulf. The message fueled speculation that Iran will make good on its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers.
An average of 14 supertankers carrying one-sixth of the world's oil shipments every day pass through the Strait, a narrow channel which the U.S. Department of Energy calls "the world's most important oil chokepoint."
With global oil demand expected to rise to a record 89.5 million barrels per day in 2012, a major disruption to oil exports from Iran would drastically affect pricing.
Even though Iran has made such threats repeatedly over the past 20 years, tighter sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe may have pushed the country to its breaking point. Iran just concluded a 10-day military exercise intended to prove to the West that it can choke off the flow of Persian Gulf oil whenever it wants.
Now Iran is expected to trigger oil market performance similar to spring 2011, when Libya's civil war caused oil prices to spike close to $115 a barrel.
In fact, if the Iranian government made good on shutting down the Strait, oil prices would probably shoot up $20 to $30 a barrel within hours and the price of gasoline in the United States would rise by $1 a gallon.
While we can't control Iran's actions, we can control how we prepare for whatever political and economic turmoil it inflicts. That's why it's time to buy the United States Oil Fund LP (NYSE: USO).
Global Political Tensions Will Bolster US Oil FundIran is trying to scare the world out of imposing more sanctions against it, which drastically limit the country's ability to conduct business.
The latest sanctions, signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama last Saturday, will make it far more difficult for refiners to buy crude oil from Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter.
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Why You Should Worry About the Iran Oil Sanctions
I cut my teeth doing energy-related deals in the Soviet Union and still spend a lot of time consulting in Russia and the Caspian Sea basin. These days, my work takes me all over the globe. But the part of the world where my career began still holds the key for future oil supplies.
Especially the Caspian.
This land-locked body of water borders five countries, each having major oil-and-gas reserves.
One of those countries is Iran - the focus of the latest problem that's cropped up in the global energy sector.
And that "problem" - Iran oil sanctions - is certain to bring about an increase in the price of crude oil.
Two sanction-spawned catalysts will boost oil prices. To see them, read on... Read More...
China Deepens Ties with Iran and Venezuela In Spite of U.S. Consternation
Just as the United States makes an impassioned push for tougher economic sanctions on Iran, China is reportedly increasing its gas exports to the volatile Middle East nation.
Chinaoil- the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp's (CNPC) trading unit- shipped two cargoes totaling 600,000 barrels of gasoline to Iran in exchange for $55 million, according to Reuters. The cargoes were Chinaoil's first direct sales to Iran since at least January 2009, according to Reuters data.
Additionally, Unipec- the trading arm of the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) (NYSE ADR: SNP)- agreed to sell 250,000 barrels of gasoline to Iran.
The sales couldn't come at a worse time for the United States. Washington has spent months lobbying the international community to tighten sanctions on Iran, which is openly expanding its uranium enrichment capacity.
How to Profit from the New Iranian Sanction
Growing up in Massachusetts, my mother used to say, "Live long enough, and you'll see just about anything happen in politics."
And she was right.
A wrestler, a standup comic, several movie actors, and former sports figures have been elected to office; tea parties are back as a way of challenging leadership; even a disgraced former governor makes it onto "Celebrity Apprentice."
But she never saw this one coming - a U.S. sanctions move against Iran that may actually work... and make you some money in the process.
- Iranian Energy Sector a Political Pitfall for Some, New Opportunity for Others By Jason Simpkins Associate Editor Iran's energy sector has again proved to be a point of controversy as both Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDS.A, RDS.B) and Spain's Repsol YPF SA (REP) have withdrawn from one of Iran's largest natural gas projects after being pelted with political pressure from the United States. Story continues below… Shell […] Read More...