Oil prices soar after fighting talk by Trump

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 17 Sep 2019

Oil prices made their biggest jump in many years yesterday after President Donald Trump said the United States was ready to respond to hits on Saudi oil infrastructure that Washington blamed on Iran.

It is the first time the president has hinted at a US military response to the drone attacks, which slashed Saudi oil production by half and led the kingdom and the United States to talk of tapping strategic reserves.

Tweeting that the United States had "reason to believe that we know the culprit," Trump said the US military was "locked and loaded" but awaiting "verification on the attackers."

Russia followed up by calling on "all countries to avoid hasty steps" while China and the European Union urged "restraint."

The Teheran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, which a Saudi-led coalition has been attacking for five years, claimed Saturday's strikes on oil plants owned by giant Aramco.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed directly at Teheran, saying there was no evidence the "unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply" was launched from Yemen.

The attacks sent oil prices rocketing, with Brent futures up US$12 (HK$93.3) - nearly 20 percent - at the start of business while West Texas Intermediate jumped more than US$8, or 15 percent, the biggest rise since the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

Saturday's hits set off fires that engulfed the Abqaiq plant, the world's largest oil processing facility, plus a huge oil field.

Saudi infrastructure has been hit by the Huthis before, but this was of a different order, halting 5.7 million barrels per day or 6 percent of the world oil supply.

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