© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A pump jack is seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
By Laura Sanicola
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices rallied on Thursday after reports that Germany is no longer opposed to an embargo on Russian oil, which could further tighten supplies in the already stressed global crude market.
German representatives to the European Union are no longer objecting a full Russian oil embargo as long as Berlin is given time to secure alternative supplies, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The article echoes comments from Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Tuesday, when he said the EU’s largest economy, could cope with an EU embargo on Russian oil imports and it was hoping to find ways to replace Russian oil with other supply.
Brent crude futures rose $1.41 to $106.73 a barrel by 11:35 a.m. EDT (1535 GMT.) U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rose $1.95, or 1.9% to $104.05.
Germany is heavily reliant on Russian energy imports and had previously opposed a full ban.
Before the war in Ukraine, Russian oil accounted for about a third of Germany’s supply. A month ago, Germany’s economic minister said that Germany had reduced its dependence on Russian oil to 25% of its imports.
“As a result of this, oil from the free world is going to be more expensive, and Iron Curtain oil will plunge further in value and be discounted more heavily,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
Russia has started to use energy exports as a cudgel following the response by the United States and allies over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia has cut off gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria and is trying to push the EU to adopt its new gas payments system that involves opening accounts at Gazprombank where payments in euros or dollars would be converted to roubles.
Russian oil production could fall by as much as 17% in 2022, according to an economy ministry document seen by Reuters, as the country contends with Western sanctions.
Despite this expected shortfall, the OPEC+ group of producers comprising the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia is expected to maintain its modest pace of increasing output when it meets on May 5, sources told Reuters.
The U.S. dollar surged to its highest levels in two decades on Thursday, propelled by weakness in its major rivals, such as the yen and the euro. A stronger dollar is usually bearish for oil prices which are priced in the greenback, as it makes it more expensive to holders of other currencies.
In China, Beijing closed some public spaces and stepped up COVID-19 checks at others as most of the city’s 22 million residents embarked on more mass testing in an effort to avert a Shanghai-like lockdown. The most recent lockdown has disrupted factories and supply chains, raising fears over the country’s economic growth.
But Asia’s biggest oil refiner, Sinopec (NYSE:SHI) Corp, expects the country’s demand for refined oil products to recover in the second quarter as COVID-19 outbreaks are gradually brought under control.
A slowdown in global growth owing to higher commodity prices and an escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict could further exacerbate oil demand fears.