By Adrian Kerr
Crude-oil prices experienced a significant jump following the launch of air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition against rebel Houthi targets in Yemen. This development has raised concerns about a potential escalation of conflict in the Middle East, which could disrupt the supply of oil and gas.
Impact on Crude-Oil and Natural Gas Prices
Front-month Brent crude oil futures immediately rose by nearly 2% after the strikes were launched. Moreover, they were up by 2.6% to $79.40 a barrel in early European trading. Similarly, U.S. benchmark WTI futures increased by 2.7% to reach $73.98 a barrel.
The European natural gas prices also witnessed a surge, with the benchmark Dutch TTF rising by 2.1% to EUR31.43 per megawatt hour.
Equities Continue to Climb
Despite the spike in energy prices, equities remained on an upward trend. Major European bourses saw gains across the board, with the FTSE 100 rising by 0.9%. Additionally, France's CAC 40 experienced an increase of 0.8%, while Germany's DAX soared by 1.0%.
Among the notable stock movements, Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk saw a rise of 0.2%. Meanwhile, Germany's Hapag-Lloyd recorded a 1.3% increase, and Hong Kong-listed shares in Cosco Shipping Holdings closed at 3.15% higher than before. Taiwanese shipping companies Evergreen Marine and Yang Ming Marine Transport also witnessed gains of 5% and 5.1%, respectively.
Yemeni Rebel Attacks Disrupt Shipping Traffic
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have been targeting commercial ships transiting through the Red Sea as a retaliatory measure against Israeli actions in Gaza. Consequently, shipping traffic has significantly reduced, negatively impacting trade and supply chains.
In response to the rebels' noncompliance with an ultimatum to cease their attacks on Red Sea shipping, the U.S.-led coalition launched over a dozen strikes late on Thursday.
Potential Implications for Inflation and Central Banks
The increase in energy costs, coupled with higher-than-expected U.S. inflation data, has added to concerns about the last phase of disinflation. Analysts at Saxo Markets suggest that this situation could prompt central banks to adopt a more cautious approach towards interest rate cuts.