Mideast oil exports unlikely to face disruptions: Analyst

Gartman's contrarian crude call
Gartman's contrarian crude call

Those anticipating a disruption to oil exports amid heightened political tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran may be disappointed: energy prices are likely to stay weak in the near term, according to a JPMorgan analyst Tuesday.

Oil prices are higher Tuesday in Asian trade after a decline overnight as a slump in global and China equities offset early gains from geopolitical tensions in the Middle East that sparked concerns about supply disruptions.

U.S. WTI light sweet crude is up 0.8 percent at 37.05 a barrel while Brent crude is also 0.8 per cent higher at $37.53 a barrel.

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Crude oil had jumped earlier Monday as Saudi said it would cut diplomatic relations with Iran after protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran earlier Sunday, and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, predicted "divine vengeance" for the Saudi execution of a major Shiite cleric.

"(What happened) yesterday reflected the geopolitical risk and added to the volatility in the market but fundamentally we don't believe that oil exports will be in near-term disrupted from any of this sort of geopolitical risk between Saudi and Iran," said the bank's regional head of oil and gas research, Scott Darling.

Even though OPEC kingpin Saudi has stood firm on its strategy of not cutting the production ceiling in order to squeeze out smaller producers in the depressed market, supply adjustments—particularly in the U.S.—are still taking "a lot longer than we've anticipated," Darling told CNBC's Squawk Box.

At around $37 a barrel, oil prices are still at multi-year lows, after OPEC refused to lower its 30-million-barrel-a-day production ceiling at its production meeting in December.

With an expected build in inventory in the first half of 2016, the risk of continued sluggish demand growth will weigh on the market.

JPMorgan is forecasting global benchmark Brent at $35 a barrel for the first quarter with a gradual recovery throughout 2016 to hit average over $50 a barrel for the full year.

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