Oil jumps as Qatar ditched, London attacks hurt sterling

Oil-prices1SINGAPORE: Oil jumped after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar on Monday while sterling slipped after the weekend attacks in London that killed at least seven people and wounded 48, just days before Britain’s general national election.

The coordinated move by the Middle Eastern countries, accusing the wealthy Gulf Arab state of supporting terrorism, dramatically escalates a simmering dispute over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist movement.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest exporter of crude oil. Abu Dhabi in the UAE is also a major oil exporter.

Qatar is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate – a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas.

Global benchmark Brent advanced 1.1% to US$50.48 a barrel. US oil CLc1 also climbed 1% to US$48.17.

Dubai’s stock index dropped 0.6% in early trade.

Sterling fell as much as 0.3% before paring the losses to trade down 0.2% at US$1.2868 on Monday. Attackers rammed a van into pedestrians on London Bridge on Saturday and then stabbed revelers in nearby bars.

Police shot dead three male assailants in London’s Borough Market within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call, and have since detained several people.

But British stocks are unlikely to see much adverse impact from the third terrorist attack in the country in as many months, with financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting the FTSE 100, which touched a record high on Friday, to open slightly higher.

Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday’s election would go ahead as planned.

May is expected to resume campaigning on Monday. Polls now show the election is much tighter than previously predicted. A close election could throw Britain into political deadlock just days before formal Brexit talks with the European Union are due to begin on June 19.

“Today and tomorrow, I am guessing that sterling will move in a range ahead of the UK election, as I think no one can accurately forecast the outcome,” said Masashi Murata, currency strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.

“Brexit has taught us not to believe polls, and not to take aggressive positions ahead of UK events.”

France and Germany are closed for a holiday on Monday. Germany’s DAX touched an all-time high on Friday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan reversed earlier losses to climb 0.1%.

Japan’s Nikkei also added 0.1% as the yen surrendered some of its gains.

Chinese shares fell 0.5%, with news of service-sector activity rising in May at the fastest pace in four months failing to lift sentiment.

Australian shares slid 0.8% and South Korea’s KOSPI was little changed.

Taiwan shares bucked the trend, hitting their highest level since 2000 for a second straight session, and last trading up 0.5%.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, was up 0.1% at 96.82 after sinking on Friday to its lowest level since the US presidential election in November.

US nonfarm payrolls increased 138,000 in May, severely undershooting the forecast of 185,000, suggesting the labor market was losing momentum despite the unemployment rate falling to a 16-year low of 4.3%.

The number of jobs created in March and April was also revised down.

The dollar gained 0.2% to 110.67 yen, after losing 0.8% on Friday.

The US 10-year Treasury bond yield recovered to 2.1695 on Monday, having plunged from Thursday’s close of 2.217 before the jobs data was released.

“The reaction in the 10-year yield implies that the market sees a third rate hike in 2017 as diminishing although still a very real possibility,” James Woods, global investment analyst at Rivkin Securities in Sydney, wrote in a note.

The euro fell 0.2% to US$1.1264 on Monday, holding on to most of Friday’s 0.6% gain.

On Friday, all three major Wall Street indexes hit all-time highs, with gains in technology and industrial stocks more than offsetting the subdued jobs report.

Gold rose to a six-week high on Monday, driven by the weaker dollar. It was last steady at US$1,280.24 an ounce.