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by Stockwatch Business Reporter
West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery shot up $1.87 to $63.05 on the New York Merc, while Brent for March added $2.35 to $68.60 (all figures in this para U.S.). Western Canadian Select traded at a discount of $22.95 to WTI, down from a discount of $22.75. Natural gas for February added one cent to $2.13. The TSX energy index added 1.13 points to close at 146.28.
Oil prices surged after a U.S. air strike killed prominent Iranian and Iraqi military commanders (including Iran's top general), sparking fears that escalating tensions in the Middle East will disrupt crude supplies. The last time oil prices were this high was in mid-September, after drone strikes temporarily shut down two key oil sites in the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry. The brazen attacks sent oil prices rocketing up by around $8 or 15 per cent in a single day. Today's rise was not nearly as dramatic, but with Iran now threatening harsh retaliation for the air strike, traders are still on tenterhooks. "One thing is clear: Iran will respond," predicted Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm. Based on its forecasts of "moderate to low-level clashes" within Iraq over the next month or so, oil prices "will likely hold around $70 (U.S.) per barrel, but could make a run at $80 (U.S.)" if the conflict spreads or intensifies more fiercely than expected.
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