Oil prices mark a modest pullback as investors monitor Israel-Gaza war

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Oil futures finished lower on Tuesday, consolidating after a surge in the previous session in reaction to a weekend attack on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas that sparked fears of a wider regional conflict.

Price action

  • West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery


    fell 41 cents, or 0.5%, to settle at $85.97 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices for the contract gained 4.3% on Monday.

  • December Brent crude

    the global benchmark, declined 50 cents, or 0.6%, to $87.65 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe a day after climbing 4.2%.

  • November gasoline
    added 0.9% to $2.26 a gallon and November heating oil
    tacked on 1.8% to $3.02 a gallon, with both settling at their highest prices in a week, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

  • Natural gas for November delivery
    settled at $3.38 per million British thermal units, up 0.2% Tuesday to mark its highest finish since January.

Market drivers

WTI and Brent both soared more than 4% on Monday, after the wave of attacks on Saturday by Hamas, which were followed by retaliatory strikes by Israel on Gaza and Israel’s formal declaration of war against the group.

While crude saw a sharp jump on Monday, oil prices had fallen back significantly the previous week after hitting 2023 highs just shy of $100 a barrel for Brent and above $95 a barrel for WTI in late September.

Though Israel produces little oil, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Iranian military officials had helped Hamas plan and coordinate the attack.

Iran congratulated Hamas on the attack but has denied a role in planning it.

Read: Here’s what Israel-Hamas war means for oil prices as fighting continues

“The potential of Iran’s involvement, that if proven true, could trigger the U.S. to apply more strict sanctions on Iranian crude in an already tight market,” StoneX’s Kansas City energy team, led by Alex Hodes, wrote in Tuesday’s newsletter. “There has been no hard evidence yet on Iran’s involvement, however they have been involved in supporting Hamas in the past.”

Iranian crude output hit 3.1 million barrels a day, or mbd, in August, noted Carsten Fritsch, commodity analyst at Commerzbank, in a Tuesday note, the highest since U.S. sanctions came back into force in the fall of 2018, after the Trump administration withdrew from the Iranian nuclear accord (see chart below).

Though no official figures are available, it’s estimated that Iranian crude exports were as high as 2 mpd in August.

“The U.S. has apparently been pursuing a laissez-faire approach to the enforcement of sanctions in recent months so as to offset at least part of the decrease in OPEC+ supply. It is hardly likely to maintain this policy now given Iran’s open show of support for Hamas,” Fritsch said. Full enforcement of sanctions could cut Iranian exports by as much as 1 mbd.

“Though this would further tighten the oil market in the current environment, it would not result in the kind of acute shortage that would massively drive up prices,” he said.

See: Will Israel-Gaza war sink stocks and shake the global economy? Watch oil prices.

Elsewhere, as tensions in the Middle East rise along with supply concerns, the U.S. may be “re-evaluating sanctions on Venezuela,” said StoneX’s Kansas City energy team. “Easing of sanctions would allow more companies and countries to import crude from Venezuela.”

Reuters reported Monday that sources said Venezuela and the U.S. have progressed in talks that could provide sanctions relief to Venezuela.

“It appears that this headline has received more attention since the recent Hamas attacks and is likely an attempt to quell fears over oil market supply disruptions rather than affirmed deals being made,” said the Kansas City energy team at StoneX.

Meanwhile, traders will look to reports this week for supply and demand updates on the oil market.

The Energy Information Administration will release its monthly Short-term Energy Outlook on Wednesday. OPEC and the International Energy Agency will release separate monthly oil reports on Thursday.

Also Thursday, the EIA will issue its weekly U.S. petroleum supply report. That would come a day later than usual due to the Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ holiday on Monday.

On average for the week ended Oct. 6, analysts expect the supply report to show a supply climb of 200,000 barrels for crude, according to a survey conducted by S&P Global Commodity Insights. They also forecast inventories declines of 1.1 million barrels for gasoline and 1.8 million barrels for distillates.

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