Oil Price Soars After Attack on Saudi Facilities, as Asian Shares Struggle

By Reuters 16 September 2019

SYDNEY—Oil surged to four-month highs on Monday after weekend attacks on crude facilities in key producer Saudi Arabia sparked supply fears, while shares in Asia extended losses as bleak economic data from China sapped investor risk appetite.

Crude futures on both sides of the Atlantic hit their highest since May, but came off their peaks after US President Donald Trump said he had authorized the use of the US emergency stockpile to ensure stable supplies.

Trump also said the US was “locked and loaded” for a potential response to the strikes on the Saudi facilities, which shut 5 percent of world production, after a senior official in his administration said Iran was to blame.

Worries about tensions in the Middle East and worsening relations between Iran and the US powered safe-haven assets, with gold rising 1 percent in early Asian trade to US$1,503.09 (2.3 million kyats) per ounce.

“If risk appetite collapses due to fears of worsening Middle East tensions in the wake of any retaliation to the … attacks, some emerging markets could face a double whammy of pressures,” said Mitul Kotecha, Singapore-based senior emerging markets strategist at TD Securities.

He noted that the Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Philippine peso were the most-risk sensitive currencies in Asia.

Indonesian stocks opened 2 percent lower on Monday, marking the biggest intraday drop since Aug. 6.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.44 percent to 513.3 after data showed China’s industrial production growth skidding to its weakest pace in 17 and a half years in August.

Painting a dour picture of the world’s second-biggest economy, China’s statistics bureau said the country faces increasing downward pressure from external uncertainties.

China’s blue-chip index eased 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index faltered about 1.2 percent.

Liquidity was relatively thin with Japanese markets shut for a public holiday.

E-Minis for the S&P 500 were off 0.7 percent while those for the Dow fell 0.6 percent.

Bonds and currencies

Among major currencies, the Saudi news pushed the yen up 0.3 percent to 107.74 per dollar, while the Canadian dollar rose 0.5 percent in anticipation of higher oil prices.

The euro was little moved near a three-week top while the pound stepped back from Friday’s two-month highs. That left the greenback down 0.1 percent at 98.126 against a basket of six major currencies.

The risk-sensitive Australian dollar was down 0.5 percent against the yen, snapping nine straight days of gains. The kiwi dollar slipped to a one-week low on the yen.

“One immediate question this [attack] poses for bond markets is whether a further rise in the inflation expectations component of bond yields—which have proved historically sensitive to oil prices—will give this month’s sharp bond market sell-off fresh impetus,” said NAB analyst Ray Attrill.

“Or will safe-haven considerations dominate to drive yields lower?”

In early Asian trading, futures for US 10-year Treasury notes rose 0.3 percent, indicating yields may slip when cash trading begins.

Global bonds were sold off last week, sending yields higher, led by a broader risk rally on hopes the US and China would soon end their long trade war. Better-than-expected US retail sales data also boosted sentiment.

Investors next await the outcome of the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting on Wednesday, at which it is widely expected to ease interest rates and signal its future policy path.