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LONDON: Oil prices soared Wednesday above $113 per barrel and natural gas hit a record peak, as investors fretted over key producer Russia’s intensifying assault on Ukraine.

European benchmark Brent North Sea oil struck $113.94 per barrel, the highest level since 2014, while New York-traded WTI hit a nine-year high of $112.51 as both posted day rises of almost 8 percent before dropping back slightly.

Gas prices also raced ahead, with European reference Dutch TTF hitting 194.715 euros per megawatt hour, an all-time high, before settling back to 168.77 euros, still up by a third.

British gas prices jumped as high as 463.84 pence per therm, close to the record 470.83 pence struck in December, on fresh fears of supply disruption.

Europe gas price hits record high on Ukraine conflict

Aluminium also spiralled upwards to hit a record high of $3,597 a tonne after Russia, a major producer of the industrial lightweight metal, launched a huge military assault on its neighbour. Despite the growing fears of how much damage prolonged price rises can wreak on world economies already worrying over the telltale signs of runaway inflation, Saudi Arabia, Russia and other top oil producers meanwhile agreed only to a gradual opening of the taps.

At their meeting in Vienna, the 23 OPEC+ members decided merely to “reconfirm the production adjustment plan... to adjust upward the monthly overall production by 0.4 million barrels per day for the month of April.”

Analysts sought to paint a wider picture as the Ukraine crisis showed no sign of ending.

“It is far too soon to say how this will end. The range of possible outcomes remains huge. We may be in the early days of a long process of restructuring the global order,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist with Capital Economics. Predicting the conflict could hit the Russian economy to the extent it falls from being the world’s 11th largest economy to 14th he added that “tells us little about how the conflict might affect the global economy over the long run”.

But he added it would most likely concentrate governments’ minds on the need to upgrade energy security and, at least in Europe, accelerate their transition away from fossil fuels.

Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB, noted that “the global economy is facing energy starvation right now,” while adding that “demand destruction will set a limit to the upside eventually,” given the tightening of the physical oil market owing to sanctions towards Russia. US President Joe Biden had earlier in the week said that the United States would join a 30-country deal to release 60 million oil barrels to help temper the surge in crude prices, though analysts have warned such moves would have a limited impact.

“Energy markets are seriously rattled, with gas prices also spiking,” ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada told AFP.

“The big fear is the prospect of (a) Western import ban on Russian oil and gas — or retaliation from Russia in cutting its energy exports to Europe.”


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