President Donald Trump injected fresh uncertainty into oil markets on Tuesday by removing Rex Tillerson from his post as secretary of State and replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a foreign policy hawk.
The staff shakeup installs an ardent critic of the Iran nuclear deal as the nation's top diplomat and narrows the difference of opinion between the White House and the State Department, analysts say. Tillerson's firing also removes another member of the administration's internationalist wing and emboldens Trump to take more punitive measures against rivals, including Iran and Venezuela, they warn.
That could raise the geopolitical risk premium in oil markets and ultimately disrupt crude output, potentially sending prices higher as supply tapers off at a time of robust oil demand.
"We are probably looking at both the U.S. exiting the Iran deal and the U.S. imposing more sanctions on Venezuela, and both of those are pretty bullish for oil," said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.