Uncertainty over Syrian intervention hits oil markets

David Brancaccio Aug 27, 2013
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Uncertainty over Syrian intervention hits oil markets

David Brancaccio Aug 27, 2013
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Citing evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack against civilians outside of Damascus last week, Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration would hold the Syria responsible for “indiscriminate slaughter of civilians” on Monday.

Kerry’s words seemed to indicate that the United States and its allies are moving closer to military intervention in the three year old conflict between Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebels calling for his ouster.

The uncertainty over future conflicts has already impacted the markets, driving oil prices in the U.S. and Europe to a five-month high Tuesday morning. And, investors have been buying U.S. dollars as a kind of safe haven.

“The worsening situation in Syria and the growing concern over allegations of chemical weapons attacks are having an impact on the price at the moment, but I don’t think that’s the only story,” says Julian Lee, who watches the oil market at the Centre for Global Energy Studies in London. “Syria is not a big oil producer. In fact, right at this very moment, it’s producing virtually nothing.”

“But I think what is of concern is that anytime we get news headlines about rising tension anywhere in the Middle East, the market tends to fear that other countries with much more significant production will get sucked in,” Lee says.

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