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US, Iran to meet – crude drops $20/bbl

Economic growth, Futures trading, Leverage, Oil markets
By Paul Hodges on 18-Jul-2008

I suggested at the weekend that the Iran issue had the potential to move oil prices by $50/bbl either way. Since then, prices have fallen $20/bbl to $130/bbl, on news that the USA and Iran will meet tomorrow for the first time in nearly 30 years. If they reach agreement on the nuclear issue, oil prices will almost certainly fall further, as the threat to exports via the Strait of Hormuz is removed. Alternatively, if diplomacy fails, any bombing by Israel of Iran could easily cause prices to soar to $200/bbl.

Maintaining price hedges against both outcomes therefore seems the right strategy for chemical companies, given this uncertainty. If prices do fall further, working capital will take a major hit, as stocks are revalued downwards. Current price initiatives will probably also collapse. Equally, if bombing does take place, and oil prices jump in response, it is most unlikely that these higher costs will be quickly recovered in product prices.