Global oil prices fell Wednesday on a variety of factors -- including the resumption of some exports from Libya (which has been experiencing civil unrest); rising U.S. stockpiles; and anticipation of progress in nuclear talks with Iran.
In Geneva, top diplomats from the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany resumed negotiations, after talks earlier this month reportedly came close to achieving a preliminary agreement. Such an agreement would impose further restrictions and monitoring on Iran’s nuclear program, in exchange for lifting some economic sanctions. Those sanctions have crippled Iran’s economy -- and kept a lot of oil bottled up inside Iran due to strict export limits.
Global energy markets are anticipating the possible lifting of those sanctions. On Wednesday, Brent Crude fell the most it has in two weeks, to $106.62/barrel. U.S. crude futures traded yesterday at a five-and-a-half-month low of 92.43/barrel, before rising modestly today.
The world oil market already has a lot of supply. Saudi crude production is at a high-point since the government began record-keeping in 2002, at 10 million barrels/day. U.S. production in North Dakota is now close to 1 million barrels/day.
Any preliminary deal with Iran would not initially unleash new Iranian oil into world markets. But it would likely free up Iranian oil revenues that have been frozen in foreign banks by international sanctions. And that could whet the appetite of global oil traders, says Axel Busch of Energy Intelligence in London.
“If things go well today or tomorrow and we get a preliminary agreement, then there will be an immediate drop of some $5/barrel to $6/barrel,” Busch says.
But Busch thinks the more significant impact will come if negotiations proceed to a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program, six months or more down the road.
“Then the next step would be a lifting of the embargo on oil exports,” Busch. “That would release 1 million barrels/day relatively quickly. The market would react very quickly indeed once that comes in.” Busch adds, though, that Iran would have to restart mothballed oil wells and processing facilities, so the oil wouldn’t hit the market all at once.
In the U.S., oil and gasoline prices have been falling -- but not in anticipation of more Iranian exports hitting world markets. Instead, the fracking boom -- especially in North Dakota -- is sending a glut of domestic oil to refineries nationwide. U.S. drivers are now paying $3.21/gallon on average for gasoline. That’s down $0.14 over the past month, and down $0.21 over the past year.
As Thanksgiving approaches -- and while folks worry about Butterball’s turkey shortage -- we took a look at large turkeys of a different kind. Allan Sloan, senior editor-at-large of Fortune Magazine, shares his pickings for the year’s worst deals and financial flops.
Sloan’s 2013 Turkey List
- The company once called Texas Utilities, which leveraged a $48 billion buyout in 2007, but now hurtles toward bankruptcy.
- The New York Times Company, whose purchase of The Boston Globe Sloan considers the worst newspaper acquisition in history.
- JCPenney, which may or may not survive after its roller coaster of a year.
- The government shutdown and HealthCare.gov, which, well, you know.
Authorities are piecing together what happened at the home of Virginia lawmaker Creigh Deeds. They're also looking into whether Deeds' son Gus could have gotten more psychiatric help the day before he may have attacked his father and then killed himself.
Talks between the U.S., other world powers, and Iran aimed at persuading Iran to curb its nuclear program are back underway in Geneva today. In exchange, Iran is looking for relief from economic sanctions. The last round of talks fell apart over Iran's insistence that its right to enrich uranium should be recognized by the international community.
If these talks show progress, it's thought that United States may try to ease sanctions when it comes to some of the frozen assets that Iran holds in overseas banks. Iran is thought to have up to $10 billion in frozen assets that could be released.
The Obama administration, under fire from some in Congress for participating in the negotiations, insists that any sanctions relief would be reversible if the Iranian government doesn't uphold its end of the bargain. The White House is looking for a way to control sanctions relief in a way that bypasses Congress. One major complication for the administration in this process is that if Congress itself imposes a sanction, only Congress has the power to lift it.
Indonesia says it has downgraded its relations with Canberra following reports that Australia's security services spied on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In other news, Northern Ireland's attorney general wants criminal prosecutions in killings related to the Troubles stopped; and Venezuela's National Assembly gives the president sweeping new powers.