At almost any other time, an escalating diplomatic conflict between OPEC members Iran and Saudi Arabia would mean a spike in oil prices.
That the rally this time couldn’t be sustained shows just how abnormal things are in the oil market. Brent crude erased an initial gain of more than 4 percent Monday as a global supply glut and the slowest Chinese growth in a generation trumped mounting strife between the nations on either side of the world’s busiest waterway for oil tankers.
“When oil supplies were tight, we’ve seen bigger reactions to geopolitical tensions,” Tushar Tarun Bansal, a senior oil analyst in Singapore at industry consultant FGE, said by phone. “Now the price rise has actually been quite muted because the world is in a surplus situation.”
There was little more than a blip in crude futures when Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran, as investors focused instead on record stockpiles and rising supply. As Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates lined up to support Riyadh, the internal divisions that prevented the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries from making production cuts even as prices plunged to an 11-year low appeared more entrenched than ever.