Oil Prices Fluctuate As President Biden's Foreign Policy Adds Tension To Potential Geopolitical Risk Factors

April 19, 2021 12:00 PM
A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in southern Iran has damaged a critical oil facility and disrupted production
The shadow war that Iran has with Israel and Saudi Arabia continues
Natural gas fundamentals are looking strong
Energy Report

Energy Report

The Phil Flynn Energy Report 

Feel the Earth

I feel the earth move under my feet; I feel the sky tumblin’ down. I feel my heart start to tremblin' when Joe Biden comes around.

The earth is shaking and so is oil as geopolitical risk factors are on the rise and Biden's erratic foreign policy is raising the risk of conflict around the globe. Oil prices are fluctuating in a bull flag mode as Joe Biden's foreign policy is adding to global risk factors, along with a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in southern Iran that’s damaged a critical oil facility and disrupted production.

While Biden's talks with Iran to beg and plead the nation to rejoin the nuclear accord seem to be making progress, the shadow war that Iran has with Israel and Saudi Arabia continues. Bloomberg News reports the following:

The U.S. and Iran edged closer to ending their standoff over the nuclear deal abandoned by former President Donald Trump, with Washington describing talks as “constructive” and the Islamic Republic signaling that it was ready to debate the details of how the two sides can revive the stricken 2015 accord. 

Jake Sullivan, United States National Security Adviser, told Fox News on Sunday, “the talks in Vienna have been constructive in the sense that there is a real effort underway there” and that world powers were focused on restoring the agreement on a “compliance for compliance” basis.

Additionally, Reuters reports:

Saudi and Iranian officials held direct talks this month in a bid to ease tensions between the two foes, a senior Iranian official and two regional sources said, as Washington works to revive a 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran and end the Yemen war.

The April 9 meeting in Iraq, first reported by the Financial Times on Sunday, did not lead to any breakthrough, the Iranian official and one of the regional sources familiar with the matter said.

The regional source said the meeting focused on Yemen, where a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group since March 2015.

"This was a low-level meeting to explore whether there might be a way to ease ongoing tensions in the region," the Iranian official said, adding that it was based on Iraq's request.

In other news of potential geopolitical risk, Politico reports that: 

President Joe Biden on Saturday denounced Russia over its treatment of prominent Putin critic Alexei Navalny amid reports his health is deteriorating in prison.

"It’s totally, totally unfair," Biden said, according to a pool report. "Totally inappropriate.”

Navalny was arrested in January after coming back to Russia from Germany, where he recovered for several months from poisoning that he blames on Russia, which the country has denied. He was quickly sentenced to more than two years in prison on charges he has said are bogus. He’s being held in the notorious Matrosskaya Tishina prison.

Navalny, who has been on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks, said in an Instagram post that an official had told him his health was worsening and that he may be force-fed if he continued not to eat. Navalny has demanded his doctor be able to see him after getting severe back pain and leg numbness in prison. Navalny's wife has said he has had issues talking.

Navalny’s doctor said Saturday he “could die at any moment.”

Biden’s comments Saturday at a golf club in Wilmington, Delaware, come just days after the president levied new sanctions on the Kremlin and expelled Russian diplomats from the U.S.. The Biden administration is attempting to crack down on the Kremlin over its attempts to interfere in the 2020 election, SolarWinds cyber espionage efforts and the country’s occupation of Crimea, among other things. In response, Russia expelled U.S. diplomats and banned several prominent U.S. officials from Russia, including Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so. I chose to be proportionate,” Biden said Thursday. “The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia. We want a stable, predictable relationship.”

Domestically, The Wall Street Journal reports that, "According to Energy and restructuring law firm Haynes and Boone, bankruptcies by North American oil producers climbed to the highest first-quarter level since 2016 as energy firms continue to struggle to recover from the carnage of the oil price crash in 2020.”

“Haynes and Boone has reported there were eight bankruptcies by North American oil and gas producers in Q1 2021, the second-highest figure for a first-quarter ever since 17 were reported for Q1 2016, the last time U.S. crude futures dipped under $30 a barrel over the past decade.”

Natural gas fundamentals are looking strong. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the U.S. saw larger-than-average U.S. natural gas withdrawals from storage last winter. The EIA says:

Significantly colder-than-normal temperatures in the Lower 48 states in late January through mid-February resulted in increased heating demand for natural gas in the United States, despite an otherwise warmer-than-normal winter. As a result, the winter had larger-than-average winter natural gas withdrawals. Before the cold snap, winter temperatures had been relatively mild, but a combination of increased heating demand, record liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline exports, and decreased natural gas production contributed to the withdrawal activity during February.

Working natural gas in storage in the Lower 48 states as of March 31, 2021—the traditional end of the heating season that began November 1, 2020—totaled 1,778 billion cubic feet (Bcf), 1.4% less than the five-year (2016–20) average for the end of the heating season, according to EIA’s Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report released on April 8. Net withdrawals from working natural gas inventories during the 2020–21 heating season exceeded the five-year average by 10.6%.

This means that we should see a tightening supply into summer. Time to get some calls or to start building a long position.

Don’t miss out on my wildly popular trade levels on all major markets, as well as special subscriber-only updates. Call me at 888-264-5665 or email me at pflynn@pricegroup.com.

About the Author

Phil Flynn is a senior energy analyst at The PRICE Futures Group and a Fox Business Network contributor. Phil is one of the world's leading market analysts, providing individual investors, professional traders, and institutions with up-to-the-minute investment and risk management insight into global petroleum, gasoline, and energy markets.